Kara McKinley is committed to becoming a professional baker. Her cookies are already at the professional level, and she uses her mom’s restaurant kitchen to practice her craft. There’s a national competition that seems to be her way out of Seattle, but in order to get there, Kara needs her mom’s permission, something she is not willing to give since Kara’s older sister died in a drowning accident away from home at college. Kara’s whole life has changed since Kellan’s death, and baking is her only escape. But her life holds a lot of secrets, one of the darkest of which is that she’s being stalked. As the mysterious notes escalate in their frequency and threats, Kara grapples with the fact that her life might be over before she even really gets a chance to let it begin.
Shannon Grogan’s debut is a tense, beautifully written thriller that is guaranteed to hook readers from the start and not let them go until the book’s breathless, suspenseful conclusion. In this thriller, Grogan successfully captures the fast-paced necessity of “whodunnit” while also writing prose that is resonant, characters that are realistic, and a heroine who is authentic, a little broken, and someone readers will root for.
Told from Kara’s perspective, the book shifts back and forth in time to help readers get a sense of who Kara was as a child, as well as what her relationship was with her dead sister, Kellan. Spoiler alert: like most relationships between sisters, it was a thorny, complicated one. Allowing readers access to Kellan through Kara’s eyes as a child helps illustrate Kara’s complex feelings about Kellan’s death, and the slow reveal of the thing that finally divided the two of them is very well done.
The escalating threats of the notes from Kara’s stalker are the thing that helps propel the story forward, but Grogan also uses Kara’s desperation to escape Seattle–and the fact that Kara has pinned all her hopes and dreams on winning a cookie contest–to build even more tension. The plotting is tight and the pacing is pitch-perfect. There isn’t a flabby moment to this book, and the narrative succeeds all the more because of it.
This is a must-have on library shelves, and it’s perfect for readers who like their YA fiction dark and mysterious. This is a standout of a debut, and Grogan is an author to watch. Highly recommended.
From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan. Soho Teen: 2015. Library copy.