They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney is a go-to author for me.  Whether I am looking for the perfect book to hook a reluctant reader or a fantastic mystery that will keep my readers on their edge of their seat; Cooney is the answer.  She writes fast, suspenseful, non-stop action thrillers that leave you thinking that maybe the story was true.  Were you reading a newspaper account of an actual story or was it fiction?

Her newest endeavor is no different. They Never Came Back is a fast-paced thriller about a young girl whose parents embezzle millions in a financial scam. When they flee the country, their ten-year old daughter Murielle is left behind. In the ensuing 5 years she is put into the foster care system and seems to disappear.

Now going by the name Cathy Ferris, Murielle enrolls in an accelerated language summer program in her hometown of Greenwich. Thinking she will be able to get a glimpse of her beloved cousin, Tommy, she is shocked when he recognizes her. At that moment, her life once again changes. Suddenly, the FBI is back. They want to use Cathy/Murielle (whoever she is) as bait to lure the parents back to the US. Cathy isn’t sure if she wants to remember her old life. And she had no idea how her parents’ actions affected others, like their employees who were sent to jail in their place.

Awesome, awesome, awesome book. I could not put it down. A great introduction to some of the recent financial scandals, this book educates while keeping readers on the edge of their seats. As a teacher, I was thrilled to see the characterization of the ensemble characters. They are overachievers, kids who are willing to give up their entire summer to learn a new language. And they are attached to their cell phones, social media, and laptops. The ensemble and background characters ring true and bore more than a striking resemblance to my own students.

Highly recommended for middle school and high school libraries!

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney

I have been a Caroline B. Cooney fan since I read The Face on the Milk Carton back in elementary school. Cooney’s books are almost always edge-of-your-seat thrillers that are impossible to put down.  When I saw that she had a new novel coming out on May 12th, I immediately put it on my wishlist.  Her books are always big hits in my classroom and I knew If the Witness Lied would be just as popular.

If the Witness Lied is a thriller through and through! I started the book on Friday afternoon and didn’t put it down until I finished it on Friday night. What a thrilling read!  At times, I felt like I was reading a newspaper article because it felt so realistic.  Certain touches, like the introduction of a sleazy reality show producer, make this book stand out.

Jack Fountain is the strong one. The one who stayed. After it happened, his sisters both fled their home- one to boarding school in Massachusetts and one to her godparent’s house up the turnpike. Jack stayed with their baby brother, Tris, and “aunt” Cheryl. Jack doesn’t blame his sisters- the media attention was hard enough, but having to live with Tris and act like nothing happened sometimes feel impossible.  Tris,their baby brother, killed both his mother and father. He killed his mother by being born, and his father by hitting the parking brake in the car a year later. Of course, the media jumped all over the story and the Fountains were forced to forge new identities for themselves.  Jack changed from the popular jock in school to the steady big brother, the babysitter and brother who can be counted on.  Smithy and Madison ran from the pain.

Now “aunt” Cheryl, who’s living with Jack and Tris now that their parents are gone, has decided that the family will heal only if they work through their pain- as the stars of a reality show. In less than 24 hours all four Fountain children are brought together again and forced to face the reality of what happened to them. And when they discover that maybe Tris isn’t to blame for their father’s death, they do everything they can to clear their baby brother’s name.

If you enjoyed Cooney’s other true-crime books, like the Milk Carton series, you will love If the Witness Lied.  A fantastic read, this is a quick-paced thrilled that mystery and thrill-seekers alike won’t be able to put down!