Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb
What would you do if one of your friends suddenly disappeared? Would you try to track him or her down, and find out what happened, or would you accept the disappearance as something that is probably easily explained away, and let it go at that? In Sudden Moves, a YA mystery by talented author Kelli Sue Landon, sixteen-year-old high school student Michelle Martin faces just such a decision, when a friend of hers (though not her closest friend) Katie Brashers vanishes. Katie has with her a book she’s borrowed from Michele that Michele’s grandmother had given her, that is autographed by the author. This is an added incentive for Michelle to investigate matters further. Her search for Katie with her friends Tami and Brad Wilkes takes her into some dangerous situations, and you’ll be kept on the edge of your seat reading this page-turning mystery/thriller.
Sometimes big things happen in small towns. Michelle and her friends live in the small town of Giles, Illinois, and go to Giles High School. I don’t know where that town is, but the city of Marion, which is close to it and is mentioned in the novel, Is one I’ve heard of and driven through when I used to live in Illinois. Giles is only a town of around 4,000 souls, but the author makes it come alive, describing it and the people who live there with a colorful flair. Having Michelle’s mom be a hair dresser was a nice touch, because often hairdressers in smaller towns hear most of whatever rumors are blowing in the wind. Her mom does provide some hints and clues to Michelle, but they don’t have the best relationship in the world, and Michelle thinks her mom is too strict with her, and drinks too much, especially when her father is on the road working as a trucker. For people to just up and vanish is odd, and Michelle doesn’t know why more people aren’t curious to find out all of the details behind what happened.
Michelle’s mom doesn’t want her to go snooping around the house where Katie lived with her younger sister, Deedee Thompson, and mother, Luanne White. Of course, she does just that, though, with her friend Tami, who pretends to be older than she is, and asks about renting the now vacant house. Everyone believes that Luanne took her daughters to Orlando, Florida, for a vacation, and then decided to move there, but something about the story doesn’t seem right to Michelle. She has heard that a blue SUV had been seen in the driveway shortly before Katie and her sister and mother disappeared. When the man arrives to show Tami and Michelle the house (Michelle’s role is pretending to be Tami’s younger sister, who will also be moving in), both teens see that it is also a blue SUV. Michelle can’t help but wonder if the man, Sean, could have been responsible for whatever happened. Tami, however, brushes aside Michelle’s concerns, and even wants to date Sean, despite Michelle’s telling her she thinks Sean is married.
Brad Wilkes had been another friend of Katie’s, possibly her boyfriend, and he asks Michelle to tell him anything she learns, and he says he’ll do the same with her if he learns anything. I use the word “possibly,” because he is kept “on a short leash,” by his parents, and Katie also doesn’t get out much, but they were attracted to each other. Michelle also thinks Brad is handsome, and she finds herself getting more and more romantically interested in him as the novel goes on, and wishing that he were her boyfriend. Her mom hasn’t allowed her to date yet, but Michelle likes the attention Brad gives her, even though it’s all to locate Katie.
Sudden Moves by Kelli Sue Landon will keep you awake late into the night wanting to find out what happens next. It’s a story about the secrets a small town sometimes has, and about one teen’s efforts with her friends to bring them to light. I can’t wait to read more from Kelli Sue Landon in the future! If you like to read YA mystery/thrillers, then Sudden Moves is a book you’ll definitely want to add to your reading lists!