April Henry. Putnam Publishing Group, $16.99 (185pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24385-1
Henry's (the Claire Montrose mystery series) first YA thriller is a suspenseful tale of betrayal. As the novel opens, 10th-grader Cassie is kidnapped in her own driveway as her mother and psychiatrist stepfather, Rick, not only stand by and watch, but also hand the men a suitcase. Chapters alternate from the present to the events of the past few days, during which Cassie has uncovered Rick's files about teen patients who had committed suicide while on a drug called Socom (in which he has a heavy financial investment). Consequently, Rick plants drugs in Cassie's room to convince her mother that the girl belongs in a school for troubled teens in Mexico. The place is a like a prison. Cassie and nearly 200 other teenagers are not allowed to talk; they must abide by a rigid set of dehumanizing rules, and are cruelly punished if they do not comply. The supporting characters may be two-dimensional (when Cassie's sole friend walks her home, Rick says, ""Is that really the kind of young man you want to be associating with? Research shows that a child's friends can have a significant impact on academic standing and social labeling""), but the alternating chapters help to build suspense. The meat of the story is Cassie's attempt to escape. She is an appealing, resourceful character struggling against too many odds-and readers may well stick with this tale to see if she succeeds. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 01/30/2006