cover image What We Saw

What We Saw

Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion, $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-3584-1441-4

A small-town murder heralds the death of childhood innocence in this character-driven thriller by Hahn (The Thirteenth Cat). Longing to shake things up during summer break (“Don’t you want to see exactly where Evansburg stops and Plattsville starts? Haven’t you ever wondered about endings and beginnings?”), 12-year-old Abbi’s reckless best friend, Skylar, persuades her to start sneaking out to an abandoned tree house near their town’s limits, where they dodge a pair of weed-dealing bullies and observe weekly assignations between two disguised adults. Abbi imagines the grown-ups as spies, and Skylar as an adulterous couple, but the discovery of the woman’s corpse in the nearby woods—and her identity as someone they both know—soon shatters their fantasies. Grappling with grief, experiencing tension with Skylar, and unable to confide in her mother, Abbi’s reluctant connection to the murder investigation propels her toward sinister danger. Creating suspense through Abbi’s anxiety and ominous setting details, including claustrophobia-inducing woods, Hahn holds the thriller plot in the background until the book’s second half, focusing throughout on nuanced character relationships, strained and reborn through the tensions of growing up. Main characters cue as white. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)