Pros: Fascinating to follow along
Cons: The surprises aren’t really surprises
Rating: 4 out of 5
Jennifer Jaynes’ Don’t Say a Word (Strangers Series) introduces us to twelve-year-old twins Zoe and Carrie. Their parents were killed, and they’ve been taken in for foster care with Bitty, a strong, caring woman. We meet 22-year-old Allie, who used to be in foster care with Bitty, but Bitty adopted her. Allie also has a young son Sammy, and an on-again off-again relationship with Johnny, Sammy’s father. The tale follows primarily Allie and Zoe as Zoe tries to make herself more like Allie in the hopes that Allie might adopt her. They and the police are afraid that Gary, the man who killed Zoe and Carrie’s parents, will come back for the girls.
The characterizations are decent. Allie, Bitty, and Sammy are the most fleshed-out of the characters. Even though Zoe gets a lot more page-space than Cassie, I felt as though Cassie had the more nuanced and interesting personality. Watching Johnny and Allie as Allie realizes he isn’t good for her is an interesting glimpse into a fairly normal failing relationship where one person grows up faster than the other. The author didn’t feel the need to get melodramatic with it, and that’s nice.
Zoe very quickly outs herself as a manipulative, conniving narcissist who sees everything as being about her. There are thus few surprises on her side of things. I say few, not none, because there are one or two details that come out that make everything much more interesting. (Sorry for being vague; I want to let one of the few surprises remain a surprise.)
The writing is very smooth, and I point this out because several books I’ve read recently have felt awkward, clumsy, and/or stilted. Jaynes has a nice, clear authorial voice.
There aren’t all that many surprises in here, but the writing is smooth and the characters are interesting. It’s a relatively short novel that’s perfect for a bus ride or plane trip.
Book provided free by publisher for review