Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

complicit

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Jamie and his sister Cate were adopted by a wealthy couple whose own children died.  But money can’t fix everything.  Two years ago Cate was sentenced to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbors horse barn and injuring a girl.  Now Cate is free and she’s returning to Jamie’s life though he wants nothing to do with her.  When Jamie had first heard of the barn burning down, his arms went completely numb and non-functional.  He’s gotten better in the last two years, but hearing that his sister is returning and looking for him specifically has his arms going numb again.  Cate bears a truth that Jamie might finally be ready to hear, and Jamie knows that there is something about the fire at the barn that just isn’t right.  This tense and twisting thriller will keep readers enthralled right to the incredible ending.

Kuehn won the William C. Morris Award for her first book, Charm & Strange.  Her skills is on display here too as this second book is a completely engrossing read that is one wild ride.  Told entirely from the point of view of Jamie, readers can only guess at what he is hiding from himself.  Tension builds as Jamie starts to piece together clues about Cate and what she was doing the night the barn burned and then why she turned herself in days later.   As Cate starts to call Jamie and provide hints herself, the tension creeps up higher.  The explosive ending will confirm some reader’s guesses but will also stun with its revelations.

Skillfully written and plotted, this novel explores mental illness in a very close and personal way.  Jamie is a wonderfully flawed narrator, filling the pages with his unique point of view that readers know from the beginning is skewed though they are not sure exactly how.  That is part of the brilliance of the book, that there are many ways in which Jamie can be misunderstanding his sister and his past.  That’s what keep readers turning the pages, the need to know what in the world is the truth.

A riveting and breathtaking read, this is a perfect summer read to share between friends.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Macmillan.