Katy Gardner, Author . Riverhead $13 (368p) ISBN 978-1-57322-933-3

Fictional best friends are typically total opposites—one beautiful and confident, the other plain and insecure—and England-born-and-bred Esther Waring and Gemma Harding are no exception. Inseparable as youngsters, in their teens they grew apart. Esther played femme fatale and got all the guys; Gemma played underdog and got stuck in the role of wallflower. What's worse, Esther went on to university, whereas Gemma deliberately failed her exams, missing an opportunity to show off her biggest asset, her brains. So there is plenty of emotional baggage to check when Esther and Gemma, now in their early 20s, travel to India for what is supposed to be an extraordinary adventure that will renew their somewhat tattered bond. The awkwardness between the two women grows when a mysterious Australian backpacker, Coral, invites herself along for the journey and deliberately attempts to woo Gemma away from Esther. Before long, Esther finds herself the odd woman out, which prompts her to reflect on her relationship with Gemma and how she most recently betrayed it. For the first time in her life, she is not in control, and she is not among friends. Gardner's stark setting—not the exotic tourists' India but its dank, grimy backwaters—heightens the characters' senses and builds uneasy suspense page by page until the surprise conclusion starkly underscoring the theme of betrayal. If the denouement is somewhat slick, Esther's delayed coming-of-age has emotional clout. (Apr. 23)

Forecast: Losing Gemma will inevitably be likened to Alex Garland's The Beach, and the comparison is apt enough, though Gardner isn't as polished a stylist as Garland. Another close match is the comic suspense novel Backpack by Emily Barr (Plume, Jan. 2002)—the two original paperbacks would make a nice pair in travel fiction displays. Foreign rights sold in 11 countries.

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-2593-9
Ebook - 978-0-14-188002-0
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-101-19124-8
Ebook - 978-0-7865-4079-2
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