The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand
Ronnie has moved from Portland to rural Oregon with her parents. They now live at the end of a dead-end road and run an inn. Ronnie is not happy at all to have moved to this very isolated area where she can hear the river running. Ronnie has taken up running and people along her route time her run, including the local ranger and a family with lots of children. Ronnie quickly learned to follow one of those children, because Karen was always up for an adventure. But when she is on her run one day, Ronnie glimpses something along the river and discovers Karen’s body. Now the sinister and gloomy feel of the area comes to fruition as Ronnie is obsessed with figuring out who would kill Karen and what Karen may have discovered in one of her adventures along the river.
Beautifully atmospheric, this novel excels at bringing the world of rural Oregon to life. Filled with sensory information like the sounds of the river, the feel of the rain, and the small details of life at the inn, readers are surrounded by Ronnie’s world. The book also does well in building tension through the slow storytelling in the beginning. The details and the pace help build the eeriness of the novel.
However, the book does fall short despite the great writing. Ronnie’s character is well-developed and interesting, but others around her are not as well defined. Her foster brother Tomas is not even introduced in the first couple of chapters and suddenly appears. When their relationship becomes more involved, it is done suddenly and with little build up which was jarring. Additionally, the slow pace of the beginning of the novel turns into a rushing speed where the lovely details are forgotten and the mystery is solved far too quickly.
I would have loved this novel if the pacing was more consistent and the characters better defined. But even with these shortcomings, the novel will be enjoyed by teen readers who will find a contemporary mystery set in an evocative place. Appropriate for ages 14-16.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Words World and Wings, Katie’s Bookshelf, Sarah’s Random Musings, The Reading Zone, Wordbird, and Katie’s Book Blog.