Quinn Perkins is a 17 year-old American exchange student living in a small, run-down town in France with her host family. This host family is somewhat dysfunctional…the father has mysteriously disappeared and has not been seen for years. The mother was once the headmistress at the local school, but she has lost her position and the school has closed after the suspicious death of one of the students. There is an older brother who is away at school who suddenly returns. He is charming and handsome and captivates Quinn’s attention. Lastly, there is her host sister who is aloof and fragile….almost scared, but what has her acting so bizarre?
The American Girl starts with Quinn running through the woods and into the street where she is hit by a car. She ends up in the hospital in a coma, and when she awakes she cannot remember anything. No family comes to visit her, and her entire host family is now missing. The story hits the news after a couple caught the hit and run accident on video and uploaded it to YouTube. Suddenly, journalists from all over are desperate to get a hold of this sensational story. Only one succeeds: Molly Swift who pretends to be Quinn’s American aunt.
The action in the story is quick and full of suspense….it bounces between Quinn’s hidden computer blog and her video confessions while tracking the events as they are playing out in the present. Quinn quickly becomes a suspect, but Molly believes there is so much more going on in this small town than anyone could imagine.
This is the second book by Lisa Ballantyne that I have read and reviewed. And she did not disappoint. This is called Everything She Forgot, and is journey into the human mind and how it can hide vital memories and experiences when trying to protect us. The book is also about the human spirit….both evil and good. The story is fast-paced and intense. There were quite a few scenes of child abuse that caused me to set the book down for a bit and think happy thoughts, but those scenes were necessary to the development of not only the characters, but to the story.
The story begins with Margaret Holloway driving home from work (she is a teacher) during a terrible snowstorm. She is involved in one of the worst multiple car accidents in London and finds herself trapped in her burning car. She is rescued by a mysterious man who promptly disappears after he pulls her from the car window. After the accident, Margaret begins to remember things…things from her past that will connect her to the mysterious man who rescued her.
Margaret’s life as she knew it has changed. Is she willing to come to terms with the truth…with her past? Or will she hide away?
The Wilderness of Ruin by Roseanne Montillo tells the horrifying true story of America’s youngest serial killer. Back in the late 1800’s, Jesse Pomeroy terrorized the working-class neighborhoods of Boston. At the young age of 12, Jesse begins to target young children into trusting him and then he tortures and abuse them in the most wicked ways. In a few cases, the torture led to the death of these children. This is not a tale for the faint of heart.. It is a bit gruesome and technical in regards to the details of the case.
What makes this such a fascinating read is the history and the psychology that surrounds the case. This takes place during the Great Fire of Boston 1872 (which followed the Great Fire in Chicago) and how they city was left in ruins. It was in these ruins that Jesse became a heartless predator among the young. The history of the city and the fire was an interesting read for me. I have read a bit on the Great Fire in Chicago 1871, but I have not read anything on the fire that destroyed a good portion of Boston during the same time. The fire came to be known as Damrell’s Fire (after the fire chief). He was an intriguing fellow who had feared for the city of Boston after the events in Chicago. He researched what their city could do differently to prevent such a tragedy. He was ignored. And when the fire occurred in Boston and could not be stopped, Damrell was to blame.
Yet even more fascinating in this story is the psychology of the case. The term psychopathic tendencies had not yet been introduced until the 1880’s….almost ten years after Jesse Pomeroy had committed his crimes. Alienists (psychologists) and writers were quite intrigued by Jesse and his ability to disconnect himself from the atrocities that he committed. Roseanne Montillo researched the insane asylum and prison’s treatments of the inmates at this time. The practice of solitary confinement was incredible to me, and Jesse Pomeroy spent 58 years in prison and almost all of those years were in solitary confinement. Montillo delves into this topic in great detail.
The harrowing tale of murder was well researched and written. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history and psychology.
Here is my first nonfiction review book from William Morrow Publishing. It is The Other Side of Normal: How Biology is Providing the Clues to Unlock the Secrets of Normal and Abnormal Behavior by Jordan Smoller. I have been fascinated with psychology since I was a kid and remember watching the movie My Girl with Macaulay Culkin. They found this old model of a human brain in the attic that was used to study Phrenology…the study of the bumps on your head….well, I was just intrigued by that and began my own mini research into personality and psychology. So much so, most of my electives in college were either psychology or art history, weird? Anyway, after college I went into the social work field and so on and so forth. The point of my rambling is that I chose this book due to my interest in psychology. Whew…that was unnecessary of me.
I like this book because it examines 3 major influences on our human behavior, so we are not merely stuck on an one-way track. It looks at a person’s genes, experiences and evolution are how these factors shape our emotional and social natures. It looks at specific case studies throughout history. Smoller has made of point of not writing an encyclopedia of psychology, and though there are times when the text is quite technical, I did not feel lost in it. I recommend this book for anyone who is interesting in human psychology and behavior.