THE SECOND WINDOW
by Erica Keifer
Clean Teen Publishing
As her senior year flies by on cruise control, seventeen-year-old Olivia Cole yearns for excitement—something her upscale private school no longer provides. Her job as a grocery store bagger isn’t much help…until the day she has a bizarre exchange with the cagey town recluse. When the woman abruptly surrenders to the police, Olivia feels compelled to dig deeper into her perplexing story. But the investigation stalls when Olivia receives another piece of news—Andre Steele, the golden boy of Westmont and her previous tormentor, has unexpectedly returned from his four-year stay in Brazil—and the whole school is buzzing! All at once, Olivia’s dull and predictable life is uprooted, and she wonders if “boring” was so bad after all.
After a smooth glide of building gentle tension, this book suddenly shoots off into mystery pure.
Olivia is a senior and lives in a perfect bubble. Her mother is a successful psychiatrist, her father loving, she has great friends and school life is a breeze. When one of her regular customers at the grocery store, a quiet woman who always comes on Wednesdays, almost sheds tears at the register, an entire nest of secrets begins to open up. Just as the mystery gets going, an unexpected ghost returns from Olivia's past. Not only does she have to face him, but soon finds herself uncovering information which no one wants her to know—things which turn life as she knows it upside down.
The moment I saw the cover, title and blurb on this one, I wanted to dive into Olivia's world. It wasn't what I expected. While this is a mystery thriller, it's not one that flings itself into dark shadows and high tension right away. The first chapter allows the mystery to begins, but before too many shadows take over, the story quickly reels back into more of a personal, teenage drama, and then launches into the mystery again little by little. The author allows Olivia's insecurities to come around full circle in a bout of teenage drama with a dash of potential romance. . .which seemed a little distracting at first. But by the end of the book, the sense of it flows into the main plot, adding the right amount of self-questioning needed for this psycho-thriller.
The pacing holds steady the entire way through, although much of this is a head-game more than real action. The author establishes the hint of wrongness right away, and then digs into Olivia's head and her own self-esteem issues. The mystery than mounts in dabs making a smooth transfer from Olivia's personal issues into the growing shadows around her. The secrets unfold little by little, meandering just enough to question what is true and what is a lie. While some things are very unexpected, others are easy to predict long before the truth is brought to light. It's a pretty even balance.
The book is engaging enough that it's not easy to set down. Still, the deeper concentration on Olivia's guy problems pulled further away from the mystery than I liked. But this isn't the end of the story. The cliff-hanger ending leaves the mystery open ended with tons of possibilities to follow. I'm hoping that future twists and turns will wrap this early teenage drama into it's cocoon and weave the necessity into a tight web. Either way, I'm excited to see where the author will take us next.