Friday, August 26, 2022

Review: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

I rarely read anything billed as a thriller. Occasionally I end up with one though and I hate to let a book go without reading it (hence my ridiculous backlog of unread books). So when my daughter asked to read this one, I knew I’d have to read it myself before sending it off to her. Luckily for me, this wasn’t the most thriller-y thriller ever.

Maya Stark is an assistant speech therapist who works at the Congdon Psychiatric Facility when a mute young man is brought in. Lucas Blackthorn is that young man. He and his father disappeared into the Boundary Waters a decade prior and were presumed dead. He is apprehended robbing a local convenience store and he turns violent, leading to his admission to Congdon. Maya is asked to work with Lucas to try and get a response from him. In working with Lucas, she not only has to help him but she has to face her own troubled past.

Maya narrates the story, uncovering the trauma in both Lucas and herself, examining society’s idea and definition of mental illness and the terrible legacy of abandonment. The premise of the novel is an interesting one but the book certainly asks the reader to suspend disbelief a lot and to ignore some pretty big ethical issues with Maya and Lucas’ burgeoning relationship. Their bond is very definitely an uncomfortable one. There are some surprising twists to the story, even if they are too coincidental. The depictions of the wilds of the Boundary Waters are beautifully done and Mejia does make the story suspenseful and sometimes shocking as well. However, the ending is tied up very neatly in ways that don’t quite feel earned. Readers who enjoy survivalist stories where someone has to interact with society after being off the grid for so long might appreciate this one.

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