cover image The Leaving

The Leaving

Tara Altebrando, read by Karissa Vacker. Tantor Audio, , unabridged, 8 CDs, 9.5 hrs., $37.99 ISBN 978-1-5414-1338-2

Reader Vacker does an outstanding job of portraying the trio of main characters in Altebrando’s unsettling YA novel set in a small town in Florida where, 11 years earlier, six children disappeared on their first day of kindergarten. The story opens as five of the six missing kids suddenly return with no memory of what happened. The novel’s alternating chapters are devoted to two of the returning teens, Scarlett and Lucas, and Avery, whose older brother is still missing. Scarlett is poetic, perplexed, and surprisingly tolerant of her mother, who’s obsessed with space aliens. Lucas is a realist with a potential for volatility that’s tested when his father dies soon after Lucas’s return. Avery’s chapters mark her as good-hearted, moody, impatient, and selfish—in short, the novel’s most believable teenager. Other characters, though well-performed, are strictly minor, including the remaining kidnap victims. In the print edition, Altebrando uses word art—dashes, slashes, white text in black boxes—to convey the moods of Scarlett and Lucas, but Vacker’s on-target emotional performances are equally effective in capturing the characters’ highs and lows. Vacker’s trenchant and stirring performance will captivate listeners from start to finish. Ages 13–up. A Bloomsbury hardcover. (Apr.)