Meredith Oliver is the girl who got left behind. A normal teenager semi-successfully navigating the shark-infested waters of middle school, she is in a sandwich shop when the most popular girl in school is kidnapped at gunpoint. “Get up,” the man says to Lisa Bellow, who dutifully follows him out the door. Meredith, frozen with fear, doesn’t even see the man’s face or car.
Meredith is sure Lisa doesn’t know her, even though they’ve gone to school together since elementary school and their lockers are next to each other. The most contact they’ve had in recent years was when Lisa directed Meredith—in true mean-girl style—to sit differently on her cafeteria chair so her butt didn’t hang over the edge.
The Oliver family has already seen its share of tragedy—older son Evan was a promising baseball player until an errant fly ball ended his dreams. Their parents, Claire and Mark, stagger under the weight of the kidnapping, simultaneously thrilled that Meredith was spared by the kidnapper and guilty that another girl is likely gone forever.
“No, she didn’t care one bit who Lisa Bellow was; the only important thing about Lisa Bellow, to Claire, was that she, not Meredith, was the girl who was taken. Certainly it would be better if she were found alive, better for Meredith, but all that really mattered was that Meredith was alive. Meredith was safe. Meredith, her baby, her baby girl, was down the hall.”
Once Lisa is taken, Meredith begins envisioning Lisa trapped in a dark, cold apartment with her abductor and abuser. The visions soon morph as Meredith grows desperate to reach Lisa before it’s too late. She retreats into her own mind, searching for clues that might lead her to Lisa.
The second novel from writer Susan Perabo (best known for her short stories) is wrenching, a dark yet beautifully told story of family, fear and grief. In the end, the question isn’t whether Meredith can save her classmate, but whether the Olivers can save Meredith.