Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Your child goes missing. Now she’s home. But is she safe?”
This book has been sat on my NetGalley shelf for a lot longer than I wanted it to be, but with its release date looming, I thought now was the right time to read and review! Being a book of my favourite genre, I really couldn’t wait to start it, and even from simply reading the prologue, it’s made me love the genre even more. Creepy, thought-inducing and shocking right to the very last page. This book was everything I’d hoped it would be!
A kidnapped girl survived twelve nightmarish years. Now she’s safely back home . . . or is she? Jenny Kristal was six years old when she was snatched off the sidewalk from her quiet suburban neighborhood. Twelve years later, she’s miraculously returned home after escaping her kidnappers—but as her parents and younger brother welcome her back, the questions begin to mount. Where has she been all these years? Why is she back now? And is home really the safest place for her . . . or for any of them?
As I’ve said time and time again, I love a prologue, even though many others deem them unnecessary. Seeing there was one in this book intrigued me even more and upon reading, it set the scene perfectly for what was to come later on in the story. We learn about the disappearance of a young girl, Jenny Kristal, and a little back story that would later be crucial to putting all the pieces of the mystery together. The author’s tone was almost mystical, and I found myself hanging onto every word in a bid to get as much information out of it as possible! A very strong opening that really makes you think about so many factors before the story has even begun. I wanted to know more about Jenny and just why and how she disappeared, and I had a feeling the story would give its readers a lot more than they bargained for.
I loved how the story wasn’t the usual cliché of a child being kidnapped and her worried family and friends trying to find out what happened to her. The author has taken a much different approach and focused on the story after Jenny returns home twelve years later. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the book is mostly told from the perspective of Jenny, which I was really excited about! It’s told in such an involving way, concentrating on the small details that perfectly build up the bigger picture – memories, sights and smells that take Jenny back to her childhood, before her kidnapping. It was only a matter of time before Jenny would return to her old neighbourhood and be reunited with the family that have grieved over her disappearance for so many years. This wasn’t the end of her or her family’s pain and suffering, however. Would things ever be normal again?
I found it really easy to feel Jenny’s emotions through the book, such as when being questioned by police and when certain memories of her kidnappers pop into her mind. The reader slowly gets drip-fed the horrors she went through, which was such a good technique, almost like the author was telling two stories at the same time! I also liked how we hear from Jenny’s mother’s perspective too – each sentence was filled with solid emotion when remembering old times and mulling over more recent ones. The author’s choice of words and description simply cannot be faulted in any way, and I fell in love with the whole plot very quickly. Things were certainly about to get darker as the time to explain what had happened to Jenny over the past twelve years loomed ever closer.
“There were all sorts of monsters let loose in this world, and some of them belonged to you.”
Reporters get wind of Jenny’s return and she meets her extended family again for the first time since her disappearance. Things seem awkward with them and even her own brother, Ben, is acting strangely. Does he believe Jenny is who she says she is? I really felt for Jenny as we witness a grueling interview with detectives working her case, and her mother isn’t happy with the stress it is putting on both her, Jenny and their family. Again, the author does an amazing job of taking us back and reliving what Jenny went through with her kidnappers, which must be horrifying for anyone to have to go through. The beginning of the book was strong with incredibly well-developed characters, and the author effortlessly involves the reader in the plot and holds their interest throughout.
Oh my goodness! It isn’t long before dark twists start emerging in the story, and my god were they dark. I think I read a whole chapter with my mouth hung open as certain pieces of the story fell effortlessly into place, and I gave myself a little kick for not noticing these signs before! There is a little dishonesty among the characters, and we are very gently given this information as the author describes one particular scene from Jenny’s past. With this new information, I continued reading with completely different views on certain characters than I had before, and I was keeping a constant eye out for any flaws or new ways in which the truth could potentially be revealed. I thought the new facts we discover here made the story more gripping and I just couldn’t seem to give this book a break for any amount of time!
As we read more into the past and about how our main character was treated, I found some of the things she endured to be sickening and downright terrifying. This book is definitely not for the faint hearted, so please make sure you can take it before you start! It was so sad to read, but even so, it made the reading experience feel so real and was crucial to the overall tone and feel of the story. There was one particular scene in the book where the truth almost came out, and it made such nail-biting reading – I didn’t know who I was rooting for! One simple look at a photograph could have revealed everything to Jenny’s family who really didn’t need their hearts breaking again. Would the truth ever come out? Who really needed to stay safe? I was so engaged in the story by this point and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages!
While looking through old photographs and listening to recordings around the time of her disappearance, Jenny realises something isn’t quite adding up. The story line could potentially change so much here and I couldn’t contain my excitement! It was difficult to work out who was telling the truth and who was being deceiving, and I found myself coming to all sorts of conclusions about where the story could go next. Hearing different parts of the story from the perspective of a range of characters forces you to learn about other things that weren’t necessarily shared from other characters, giving us the information we need to form our own theories. The story has been cleverly put together, and the author has clearly thought about how to engage readers fully and keep them on their toes.
“So, now it was my turn, I guess. To be the cold case detective.”
Eventually, the FBI start to realise that something isn’t quite right. They begin to question different characters to see if their timelines add up and there are certain characters who start to get a little nervous about the truth coming out. Jenny befriends someone new, someone she can confide in, and things begin to get a hell of a lot more serious. With the real story so close to being revealed, certain characters must play it safe to avoid getting into trouble. I loved the aspect of solving a completely different mystery than what we started out with, and the whole plot of the book changed in such a gripping way. I had absolutely no idea how the story was going to end, and a lot of my theories had gone out the window, so I was very excited to see how the author pulled everything together.
After hacking into hospital records, Jenny and her friend, Tabs, begin to find some answers. I thought it was incredibly clever how an unlikely character was now in the limelight. Could this particular character have really been a part of little Jenny’s disappearance? Just when we think things are drawing to a close, the author unveils some new, crucial information that makes the story even more juicy! Records of therapy sessions and appointments were discovered, and it was particularly interesting reading these – I was finally getting the feeling we were closing in on the truth. I was so impressed with how the author has managed to capture a reader’s attention and hold it right until the end, even with so much going on.
Each chapter towards the end of the book concluded with incredible cliff-hangers, and I just could not put this book down! Characters were starting to show their true colours, even the characters who we didn’t expect to be anything but genuine shockingly started coming out of their shells. I was so invested in the story and the author has just surprised me with how many twists and turns there were, and just how many times I was completely speechless after a scene. As the final couple of chapters got closer, there were still a few unanswered questions, but whether the author answered these or left them to our imaginations, I was sure the ending would be something many of the book community would be talking about for some time!
The rest of the book seemed to roll out like a horror film – seriously scary reading! Memories of fires started on purpose, of almost being drowned and pushed down stairs flood back to one certain character. Many things are revealed as we take a trip up to the lake, and again, my theories were no where near close to what we discover. The author has done a great job of hiding the truth from readers until the very end and even feeding us other possible conclusions that throw us off course. I loved everything about this – definitely extra brownie points earned from me!
“We need answers and sooner or later we’re going to get them.”
The story is rounded off perfectly and with the exact amount of closure I wanted from it. However, just when we think the darkness has leveled out, we learn the most sickening discovery of all that really changes things entirely. We learn of a culprit and the last few pages were an emotional whirlwind. As well as the negatives for a number of characters, we even see some find closure, others rebuilding their lives and finding peace. The last couple of pages in particular almost turned me into a blubbering wreck – so powerful, so sad and oh so heartwarming all at once. For lovers of thrillers, crime and mystery, this book is a definite must read!
This book was the story I’ve always wanted to read, and I am utterly speechless at how much it drew me in from beginning to end! With so many dark twists, completely unpredictable outcomes and a great big handful of deceit, this book has quickly become one of my all time favourites. Just when I thought I’d cracked the case, the author threw in another curve ball and simply amazed me with the plot even more. I’ve never felt so many emotions all at once when reading and there is enough character variation, disturbing scenes and unpredictable twists to satisfy anyone who loves this genre. I can’t wait to get my hands on the paperback!
A HUGE thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, NetGalley and of course the author, S.K. Barnett for the ARC. Safe will be released on June 11th, and I simply cannot wait for everyone to read it! Make sure you’re following the author over on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with the release.
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