The Stranger by Sarah Singleton
|The Stranger by Sarah Singleton|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Follow up to The Island, this is another mystery thriller based on a gap year trip for three friends. Intense and vivid, fans won't be disappointed.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: March 2011|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster|
|External links: Author's website|
After the the events of The Island, Otto, Jen and Charlie have gone their separate gap year ways. Otto is in Mumbai but isn't having nearly such a good time as he'd anticipated. Jen has moved on from the retreat and is travelling with Kumar, but is getting itchy feet. She's not sure she wants to take things with Kumar any further. But Charlie is ecstatic in her dream job at the tiger sanctuary. It's challenging - poaching and corruption are big problems standing in the way of the sanctuary's funding - but she loves it.
And then, when Charlie's returning to the sanctuary after making a delivery, there's a train crash. Charlie emerges battered but largely unscathed and with an unwelcome companion in tow. There's something about Jack that makes Charlie's skin crawl and by the time he has followed her back to the sanctuary and wangled a job there, she's beginning to feel entirely unnerved and, well, stalked. So she invites Otto for a visit and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend, hoping it will put Jack off.
It's a risky move because Jack is unpredictable. And with Jen, Otto's ex, coming to visit too, and with the faux romance becoming anything but, how will things turn out? Meanwhile, the poaching reaches crisis point and the sanctuary is under real threat...
I really enjoyed The Island but I hadn't expected a follow-up, so I was quite surprised when The Stranger arrived. I had really warmed to these three characters though and was pleased to meet them again in another mystery thriller but felt a little bit apprehensive about templating. I needn't have worried - this book has different things to say about each of them and different points to make about the adult world they are entering. The Island was concerned with individual responsibility and an adolescent hedonistic culture, really, while The Stranger talks about damaging relationships and stalking and a collective responsibility for the world and how we destroy or preserve it.
It's intense and introspective in style in true Singleton style and the descriptions of the natural world are sensuous and vivid. There's real tension in the thriller side of things, a dollop of otherworldliness in Jen's visions, and a genuinely touching portrait of an overwhelming but slightly bumbling adolescent love affair.
It ticked all my boxes and I think it'll tick all theirs, too.
My thanks to the good people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.
They would do better to read The Island before embarking on this follow up. The Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip is another thriller that combines the intensity of adolescent relationships. The Angel Collector by Bali Rai is another one - featuring one boy's search for a friend who went missing after a music festival.
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