Becca King wasn’t always called Becca. When she learned that her stepfather, Jeff, was planning a murder, she and her mother went on the run. That meant saying goodbye to her old San Diego self, Hannah Armstrong, and saying hello to Becca King, who had horribly dyed black hair, who was overweight, and who was headed to an island off the coast of Washington to stay with a friend of her mother’s. Laurel, Becca’s mother, warns her always to be wary and on her feet, and gives Becca a cell phone with her number only. Finally, she reminds Becca to take care of her AUD box. What’s an AUD box? It looks like an iPod, but instead of feeding music into Becca’s ears, it produces static. It’s the only thing that can keep the whispers out of Becca’s head.
"This book should appeal to fans of mystery and suspense, though I suspect it will probably be more popular with George’s adult fans than it will with a new generation of readers."
The whispers are what Becca and her mom call the thoughts of other people, which Becca is somehow able to hear. Always. Unless she’s wearing the AUD box. The whispers are how Becca’s stepfather used her to swindle customers in his investment firm, and it’s how she found out what he was plotting. They also make for a colossal headache if Becca’s around too many people and doesn’t have her headphones in.
When Becca arrives on Whidbey Island, it’s like nothing she’s ever seen before. Hills and woods, people who have all known each other their entire lives, and whispers in the strangest places. And her mother’s friend, whom Becca is supposed to call Aunt Carol, is nowhere to be found. Becca sets off with her bike to track Carol down. It doesn’t take long for her to start meeting a cast of interesting, secretive characters and to feel as if there is something odd about the island and its inhabitants. She doesn’t feel any safer when she arrives at Carol’s house and sees police cars. She overhears (in the regular way) people talking about a freak, accidental death and knows immediately that she is alone. To make it worse, she can’t reach her mother to tell her.
That’s not actually the mystery, though. As Becca has to find a place for herself, she starts high school and meets the other teens of Whidbey Island, most of whom find Becca to be strange and ugly --- except Derric, who is kind to Becca to the embarrassment of his friends and the scads of girls who have crushes on him. It’s only when Derric is apparently attacked in the woods that all of Whidbey Island focuses on finding out what’s going on.
Elizabeth George is no stranger to crafting mysteries. The author of tons of mystery novels for adults, many of which have made it to the BBC’s Mystery! series, she is making her first foray into YA with THE EDGE OF NOWHERE. And you can tell. George’s adult mysteries take place in England, though she herself is American, and the dialogue in this book has the rhythms and linguistic patterns of Brits, not Americans. It’s also odd anytime you’re reminded that the book is contemporary and not historical because it reads as incredibly dated in terms of social mores and the way people live their lives. It’s not that Whidbey Island is backwards or behind the times; it’s that, for all intents and purposes, it really is the 1980s of Lois Duncan novels and not today. That is to say, it seems dated, but in no way badly written. Any mention of a cell phone or the Internet comes across as awkward, thrown in, and not really understood by the writer. My advice to you is to read this book and assume it’s taking place in the late 80s or early 90s; you’ll find it much more enjoyable and less awkward that way.
It’s a shame that the book has this flaw, because as mysteries go, at least for this non-mystery reader, it’s rather compelling and interesting with just a little element of fantasy to make it firmly speculative fiction rather than full blown urban fantasy. This book should appeal to fans of mystery and suspense, though I suspect it will probably be more popular with George’s adult fans than it will with a new generation of readers.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gomez on September 26, 2012