Save Me: A Novel

Save Me: A Novel

by Lisa Scottoline


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"Each staccato chapter adds new and unexpected turns, so many you could get whiplash just turning a page. Scottoline knows how to keep readers in her grip." -The New York Times Book Review

Nobody could have foreseen what would happen the day that Rose McKenna volunteers in the cafeteria of her daughter's elementary school. Rose does it to keep a discreet eye on her third-grader, Melly, a sweet, if shy, child who was born with a facial birthmark that has become her own personal bull's-eye. Melly has been targeted by the mean girl at their new school and gets bullied every day, placing Rose in a no-win position familiar to parents everywhere. Do we step in to protect our children when they need us, or does that make things worse?

When the bully starts to tease Melly yet again, Rose is about to leap into action-but right then, the unthinkable happens. Rose finds herself in a nightmare, faced with an emergency decision that no mother should ever have to make. Would she sacrifice another mother's child to save her own? What she decides in that split second derails Rose's life and jeopardizes everything she holds dear-her family, her marriage-and even her own life...

"A white-hot crossover novel about the perils of mother love."-Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594924258
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/14/2012
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

LISA SCOTTOLINE is the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award—winning author of twenty-one novels. She has served as the President of Mystery Writers of America, and her recent novel Look Again has been optioned for a feature film. She is a weekly columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and her columns have been collected in four books and optioned for television. She has 25 million copies of her books in print in the United States, and she has been published in thirty countries. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date of Birth:

July 1, 1955

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

     Rose McKenna stood against the wall in the noisy cafeteria, having volunteered as lunch mom, which is like a security guard with eyeliner. Two hundred children were talking, thumb-wrestling, or getting ready for recess, because lunch period was almost over. Rose was keeping an eye on her daughter, Melly, who was at the same table as the meanest girl in third grade. If there was any trouble, Rose was going to morph into a mother lion, in clogs.
     Melly sat alone at the end of the table, sorting her fruit treats into a disjointed rainbow. She kept her head down, and her wavy, dark blond hair fell into her face, covering the port-wine birthmark on her cheek, a large round blotch like blusher gone haywire. Its medical term was nevus flammeus, an angry tangle of blood vessels under the skin, but it was Melly’s own personal bull’s-eye. It had made her a target for bullies ever since pre-school, and she’d developed tricks to hide it, like keeping her face down, resting her cheek in her hand, or at naptime, lying on her left side, still as a chalk outline at a murder scene. None of the tricks worked forever.
     The mean girl’s name was Amanda Gigot, and she sat at the opposite end of the table, showing an iPod to her friends. Amanda was the prettiest girl in their class, with the requisite straight blond hair, bright blue eyes, and perfect smile, and she dressed like a teenager in a white jersey tank, pink ruffled skirt, and gold Candie’s sandals. Amanda wasn’t what people pictured when they heard the term “bully,” but wolves could dress in sheep’s clothing or Juicy Couture. Amanda was smart and verbal enough to tease at will, which earned her a fear-induced popularity found in elementary schools and fascist dictatorships.
     It was early October, but Amanda was already calling Melly names like Spot The Dog and barking whenever she came into the classroom, and Rose prayed it wouldn’t get worse. They’d moved here over the summer to get away from the teasing in their old school, where it had gotten so bad that Melly developed stomachaches and eating problems. She’d had trouble sleeping and she’d wake up exhausted, inventing reasons not to go to school. She tested as gifted, but her grades hovered at C’s because of her absences. Rose had higher hopes here, since Reesburgh Elementary was in a better school district, with an innovative, anti-bullying curriculum.
     She couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful school building, either. It was brand-new construction, just finished last August, and the cafeteria was state-of-the-art, with modern skylights, shiny tables with blue plastic seats, and cheery blue-and-white tile walls. Bulletin boards around the room were decorated for Halloween, with construction-paper pumpkins, papier-mâché spiders, and black cats, their tails stiff as exclamation points. A wall clock covered with fake cobwebs read 11:20, and most of the kids were stowing their lunchboxes in the plastic bins for each homeroom and leaving through the doors to the playground, on the left.
     Rose checked Melly’s table, and was dismayed. Amanda and her friends Emily and Danielle were finishing their sandwiches, but Melly’s lunch remained untouched in her purple Harry Potter lunchbox. The gifted teacher, Kristen Canton, had emailed Rose that Melly sometimes didn’t eat at lunch and waited out the period in the handicapped bathroom, so Rose had volunteered as lunch mom to see what was going on. She couldn’t ignore it, but she didn’t want to overreact, walking a familiar parental tightrope.
     “Oh no, I spilled!” cried a little girl whose milk carton tipped over, splashing onto the floor.
     “It’s okay, honey.” Rose went over, grabbed a paper napkin, and swabbed up the milk. “Put your tray away. Then you can go out.”
     Rose tossed out the soggy napkin, then heard a commotion behind her and turned around, stricken at the sight. Amanda was dabbing grape jelly onto her cheek, making a replica of Melly’s birthmark. Everyone at the table was giggling, and kids on their way out pointed and laughed. Melly was running from the cafeteria, her long hair flying. She was heading toward the exit for the handicapped bathroom, on the right.
     “Melly, wait!” Rose called out, but Melly was already past her, so she went back to the lunch table. “Amanda, what are you doing? That’s not nice.”
     Amanda tilted her face down to hide her smile, but Emily and Danielle stopped laughing, their faces reddening.
     “I didn’t do anything.” Emily’s lower lip began to pucker, and Danielle shook her head, with its long, dark braid.
     “Me, neither,” she said. The other girls scattered, and the rest of the kids hustled out to recess.
     “You girls laughed,” Rose said, pained. “That’s not right, and you should know that. You’re making fun of her.” She turned to Amanda, who was wiping off the jelly with a napkin. “Amanda, don’t you understand how hurtful you’re being? Can’t you put yourself in Melly’s shoes? She can’t help the way she is, nobody can.”
     Amanda didn’t reply, setting down the crumpled napkin.
     “Look at that bulletin board. See what it says?” Rose pointed to the Building Blocks of Character poster, with its glittery letters that read CARING COMPASSION COMMUNITY, from Reesburgh’s anti-bullying curriculum. “Teasing isn’t caring or compassionate, and—”
     “What’s going on?” someone called out, and Rose looked up to see the other lunch mom hurrying over. She had on a denim dress and sandals, and wore her highlighted hair short. “Excuse me, we have to get these girls out to recess.”
     “Did you see what just happened?”
     “No, I missed it.”
     “Well, Amanda was teasing and—”
     Amanda interrupted, “Hi, Mrs. Douglas.”
     “Hi, Amanda.” The lunch mom turned to Rose. “We have to get everybody outside, so the kitchen can get ready for B lunch.” She gestured behind her, where the last students were leaving the cafeteria. “See? Time to go.”
     “I know, but Amanda was teasing my daughter, Melly, so I was talking to her about it.”
     “You’re new, right? I’m Terry Douglas. Have you ever been lunch mom before?”
     “So you don’t know the procedures. The lunch moms aren’t supposed to discipline the students.”
     “I’m not disciplining them. I’m just talking to them.”
     “Whatever, it’s not going well.” Terry nodded toward Emily, just as a tear rolled down the little girl’s cheek.
     “Oh, jeez, sorry.” Rose didn’t think she’d been stern, but she was tired and maybe she’d sounded cranky. She’d been up late with baby John, who had another ear infection, and she’d felt guilty taking him to a sitter’s this morning so she could be lunch mom. He was only ten months old, and Rose was still getting the hang of mothering two children. Most of the time she felt torn in half, taking care of one child at the expense of the other, like the maternal equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul. “Terry, the thing is, this school has a strict zero-tolerance policy against bullying, and the kids need to learn it. All the kids. The kids who tease, as well as the allies, the kids who laugh and think it’s funny.”
     “Nevertheless, when there’s a disciplinary issue, the procedure is for the lunch mom to tell a teacher. Mrs. Snyder is out on the playground. These girls should go out to recess, and you should take it up with her.”
     “Can I just finish what I was saying to them? That’s all this requires.” Rose didn’t want to make it bigger, for Melly’s sake. She could already hear the kids calling her a tattletale.
     “Then I’ll go get her myself.” Terry turned on her heel and walked away, and the cafeteria fell silent except for the clatter of trays and silverware in the kitchen.
Rose faced the table. “Amanda,” she began, dialing back her tone, “you have to understand that teasing is bullying. Words can hurt as much as a punch.”
     “You’re not allowed to yell at me! Mrs. Douglas said!”
Rose blinked, surprised. She’d be damned if she’d be intimidated by somebody in a Hannah Montana headband. “I’m not yelling at you,” she said calmly.
     “I’m going to recess!” Amanda jumped to her feet, startling Emily and Danielle.
     Suddenly, something exploded in the kitchen. A searing white light flashed in the kitchen doorway. Rose turned toward the ear-splitting boom! The kitchen wall flew apart, spraying shards of tile, wood, and wallboard everywhere.
     A shockwave knocked Rose off her feet. A fireball billowed into the cafeteria.
     And everything went black and silent.

Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Scottoline

Reading Group Guide


People say you should write what you know, and while I agree, I think that doesn't go far enough.

I think you should write what you feel.

Don't feel bad if you didn't know this, because it's taken me almost twenty years and twenty books to figure it out.

Call me slow on the uptake.

Let me explain what I mean by write what you feel. I'm what's known as a people person. I love people, and so it's no surprise that characterization and relationships between people are the strongest part of my novels. That's where my heart is.

That's what I feel.

Relationships between girlfriends, women and men, and family members populate every page of mine, and I like it that way. I try to write an entertaining story with a fast-moving plot, but what I want you to remember, when you close the book, is the people between the covers. Not to get too English major-y on you, but the fact is that characterization and plot are the same thing.

We are what we do, after all.

So to stay on point, it occurred to me that when I look at my life, the most important relationship to me, and the one that abides time and even space, is my relationship to my daughter, Francesca.

In other words, it's all about the mother-child relationship.

I love her more than I can say, and I'm in the words business, so I should be fired. And as she's grown up and moved out, I've gained a new perspective on her that makes me want to write more and more about that relationship. Paradoxically, now that she's moved out, I think about her more. I see us with new eyes. And our relationship has changed and grown to one between two adults, I still remain her parent, no matter how old she gets.

Motherhood has no expiration date.

I used to thing that I felt our relationship so intensely because I'm a single mother an she's an only child. In fact, I remember that she came home from grade school one day and asked this priceless question:

"Mom, if I'm an only child, does that mean you're an only mom?"

Uh, yes.

But now that I'm a new empty nester, and comparing notes with all of my girlfriends, I've come to the conclusion that the intensity of the mother-child bond doesn't turn on how many children you have, or if you have a hubby or not. It's inborn, and cultivated, both, and it powers most of my thoughts and hopes, worries and fears.

Feel me?

(As the kids say.)

So it makes sense that later in my life, which is now, I'd turn to writing more and more about the mother-child relationship. I'd written about it in FINAL APPEAL, which won an Edgar, but hadn't returned to it often in the past, for one very practical reason - in a suspense novel, you need a mom getting herself in trouble, and if she did that with a kid, you wouldn't like her much.

Neither would I.

I needed a fictional sitter, and you know how hard those are to come by.

I returned to moms and children in LOOK AGAIN, and I think the strength of the bond between a mother and her child gave the story an enormous force and emotional power.

If I don't say so myself.

And I think the same is true of SAVE ME.

It's intense, the story of a woman who tries to save her child, tries to save another, and finally, ends up saving herself. I think any mother will find themselves in this book, and wonder what they'd do if they were in its heroine's shoes.

And if you're a mother, you could be in her shoes. Tomorrow, or the next day.

We never know where life will lead us, but we mothers know we can cope, and lead, and nurture, and love.

Because that's our job, to me, sometimes I feel as if I were put on earth to be a mother.

I feel it.

After reading SAVE ME, I bet you'll feel the same way.

So open the book.

And feel.

1. SAVE ME explores the mother and child relationship, at its heart. What do you think defines a mother? How is a mother and child relationship different than any other relationship? Look at other forms of culture, like art, for example. How many depictions are there of mother and child? And how many of father and child? Are we discriminating against fathers, or diminishing them, by all this talk of the mother-child bond? And by doing so, do we create a self-fulfilling prophecy?

2. In SAVE ME, Melly is the victim of bullying because of a birthmark on her face. Do you think bullying is different today than years ago? Do you think that the bullying is getting worse, or are we just hearing more about it because of the Internet? What do you think parents and schools should do to help curb bullying? What kind of punishment do you think is appropriate for the child who is doing the bullying? What about those who watch and say nothing? Are they, or aren't they, equally as culpable? Do you think that school programs and curricula that build up self-esteem and a sense of community will really make a difference?

3. Rose experienced her own bullying at the hands of the angry parents, which gave her new perspective on what Melly was going through. Do you have any experience with bullying between adults? In what ways are adults better equipped to deal with bullying than children? What impact can bullying have on adults, and what can an adult do if they are faced with a bully? What impact does being a bully, or being a bully as an adult, have on their children?

4. Rose steps in to defend Melly against her bully. Do you think it was a good idea? Why or why not? How do you think a parent's involvement hurts or helps the situation? At what point do you think a parent needs to involve themselves in the situation? What steps would you take to help your child if they were being bullied, and how far would you be willing to go?

5. What impact do you think a physical blemish has on a child, and how do you think it effects their identity, their relationship with their family, and their relationship with the outside world? Take it a step further - like how about physical differences, like a child in a wheelchair? Or learning challenges, that aren't so visible? Or how about discriminations based on race, religion or sexual orientation? Melly's father reacted very badly to Melly's birthmark. What did his reaction make you feel about him?

6. Many of Lisa's books center on single mothers or blended families. Do you think the love of one great parent is enough to sustain a child through life? Does it take a husband, too? Or a village?

7. As Rose found out, volunteering comes with risks. The book makes clear that this is a problem in the law of many states, maybe even where you live. What do you think of the laws in terms of protecting those who volunteer their time? What changes, if any, would you make to the laws to protect volunteers? Should we expand the Good Samaritan statues to include volunteers and to encourage even more people to volunteer?

8. How did you feel about Rose keeping her secret past from Leo? Did you understand her reasoning? Did you agree or disagree with it? What impact do you think Rose's past will have on her marriage as she moves forward? Do you think she will ever really be able to escape what happened? Will he forgive her not telling him? How do secrets impact intimacy in our lives?

9. Rose was called a "helicopter" parent, a term often used in today's society with a negative connotation. What separates helicopter parenting from good parenting? What kind of parent do you think Rose was? What mistakes do you think she made? Do you think she was a good mother? Do you think she favors Melly, or the baby? Or treats them equally?

10. How did you feel about Amanda in the beginning of the book? How, if at all, did your opinion of her change by the end of the book? What do you think causes children to be bullies? Under what circumstances would you ever feel bad for the bully? In punishing a bully, do you think their personal circumstances should be taken into account?

11. What did you think of Rose's lawyers' strategy? Did you agree or disagree with it? Why or why not? Do you think they were just passing the blame, or do you think the school had a responsibility in what happened? Do you think that litigation is another form of bullying? Do you know anybody who is sue-happy?

Customer Reviews

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Save Me 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 488 reviews.
Cecita More than 1 year ago
I thought the moral dilemma posed fascinating. I also thought the book would deal with the consequences of the protagonist's choice. And it started to deal with that but then it became about a woman solving some movie-like plot from a big mean corporation. That storyline sounded fake to me; that a regular mom would outwit both the police department and the FBI? She would outwit assassins? Come on! The aftermath of her decisions would have been so gripping! What about the ending??? Everything's great? Everyone's happy? Please! To sum up, it posed an interesting question but then went a different, disappointing way. I suppose that's what bothered me the most: I was disappointed. I wish I hadn't spent $20 on it!
TaraO More than 1 year ago
The only saving grace was that I read this in store, and I didn't have to pay for it. I cannot remember any of her other books being so poorly written, I was cringing at points. While I liked the premise, I am not a fan of the writing or the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Based on the description, I thought this would be a book that dealt with a real issue that could happen today, but very disappointed to find it was another "whodunit" book with a mother running around the state fighting crime. I did not bother to finish...
TheReadersCove More than 1 year ago
Crucial Seconds, Unforeseen Consequences.. Life's critical situations come without warning, forcing us to choose quickly. What seemed the right choice then may appear different the next day. When Rose regains consciousness, finding the lunchroom at school in flames, who will she choose to save, the dazed and injured children near by or her daughter trapped in the restroom? The cost of this decision will forever change her life. Chapter by chapter Roses' unspoken past influences her choices and endangers her marriage and family relationships. The outcome finds her on shaky ground with a battle she must fight to win. Lisa's characters come alive from page one. You will see the action, hear the danger and feel the story. Save Me will captivate your heart.
ZoegirlSA More than 1 year ago
I thought this was very poorly developed. I've not read any other L. Scottoline novels and probably won't. It read as a child's attempt to create a story where the heroine combats evil but it was unbelievable in so many ways. I was very disappointed in the novel and was glad to finish it to move on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read other books by this author and enjoyed them. This one seemed too far fetched. Title character had no allies. Too many other plots intertwined together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Soccer-mom to Wonder-Woman in a few short days! Pretty unbelievable premise, outrageous plot , and sophomoric rhetoric. Along with the misspellings and grammatical errors, I found this one to be an insult to my intelligence. Authors lose their credibility in a heartbeat when they do this. Lunch-room mommy of shy kid saves the day by solving a brutal murder plot by giant conglomerate!! How soap-opera is that? Honestly, I wish I'd saved my money. Never again; I will stick to Turow and Grisham. In a word: inane.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recently picked this one up from the library and I'm happy to say I didn't pay for it. While the initial moral issue posed in the very beginning was interesting. However it turned from a story about relationship between child and mother into a ridiculously overdone, unrealistic story about crime and murder. Think something along the line of lunch mom gone CSI within three hours. It seemed as though the author lost her train of thought in the middle of the book and the whole thing was very extreme. Another thing was the poor writing. The author relied on several phrases throughout the book that the repetition became annoying. To name a few, "on the fly.." "fed the car gas.." "chirped it unlocked..". I also noticed she was over descriptive. For example, every time she got in the car, we had to know that she started the engine, pressed the gas, backed out, and zoomed out of the parking lot. Really now? Overall, this novel was a bust. I'm telling you don't waste your time or money.
bookit101 More than 1 year ago
Weak plot, no character depth, contrived situations right until the end. More for upper elementary school girls who might enjoy a story with childish HAPPY ENDING. Unrealistic. Repetitive phrasing. I hope not read the words, "ON THE FLY" or "HIT THE GAS" again. Weak editing. (why would a pony seem immensely large to Rose). Most disappointing Lisa Scottoline book read. Was it written by a ghost writer? She usually never disappoints, but this novel did. Hope there is no sequel.
SuperMomof4Ks More than 1 year ago
I loved the premise of this book. I was excited to see where the author took the main character and the fall out of such a monumental decision. It started well, and then just fell apart. The main character was weak, indecisive, and too concerned with what the other's around her thought. The story was nothing like the synopsis, I ended up feeling cheated as I thought I bought a drama/tear jerker type story and ended up with a "big corporations are evil/conspiracy" type story. I was glad when it was over and sorry that I spent more than $5 on it.
Colleen Friend More than 1 year ago
Not written or edited as well as her other books. I preordered this book and was disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good idea but poorly organized. Lines in the story were repetitive. Parts of the story line were a waste. The use of time in the book didn't seem workable. Why would you use car accidents three times in a story as a means to kill off characters ( the little boy, the carpentar and friend, her ex husband)? How many times can you use the line," she fed the car some gas." The character Kristen Canton was pathetic, as a teacher, I can tell you she did not seem believable. Lisa Scottoline, I love your Philadelphia Inquirer articles but your books are very disappointing. I have read two and I'm not reading another one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never buy a book without reading the reviews but since I am a Scottoline fan, I did so this time. Mistake! I read them AFTER I purchased it. I agree with all the bad reviews. The first half just made me angry and the second half was such a ridiculous premise I thought about not finishing it. Totally unbelievable tripe.
demonangel More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was going to be about bullying and what would you do in this situation? The book went from realistic to so far fetched within a short time frame. The mom went from ordinary woman to super detective without blinking an eye. What? Normal people would have never figured out this plot unless they were really into conspiracy theories and have a photographic memory. She just happened to remember seeing the big security guard? Yeah right!! And she solved the crime, made friends with everyone and found some self esteem along the way all within a week. Save your money!! There are better books out there.
DewDap More than 1 year ago
I really had to force myself to finish this. I was intrigued by the premise and couldn't wait to get it. It started weak and then went into weird detective mode. The whole thing was unbelievable and not up to Scottoline standards. The story was nothing like the synopsis. I was expecting a tear jerker and got what i wanted because I cried thinking I wasted money on this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is not believable. Poorly written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Rose Mckenna, a school lunch mom, had a daughter with a unusaul birth mark. Amanda, a girl who bullies Roses daughter Melly, was bullying her. Melly ran to the bathroom. Rose had a little talk with Amanda. While talking, a huge explosion happened in the cafeteria. Will Rose save her daughter or Amanda? Read this exciting story to find out!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Just read the sample and i was hooked!!! <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable and poorly written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was an okay story.  I felt like it took forever to progress then all of a sudden everything happened at once and it was over.  Some parts of it I found a little annoying.
LaurenGilmore More than 1 year ago
From the very beginning, this book has me captured. From the simple title of Save Me to the moral issue intertwined within the plot! At first, I was unsure of who needed saving, but eventually one can catch on! This is the first time I have read a book by this author and although I couldn't compare to previous novels, I felt as if this one was great! It really entranced me in a way, and made me keep turning the pages! So much so that I finished it within a matter of days! The plot revolves around a school fire and the moral decision one mother, and main character, Rose McKenna must make! Save the children in front of her or go and save her daughter who had previously run off to the bathroom? Rose has to make a decision that I hope I will never have to make! But while reading, I did find myself asking, "What would I do?" "Who would I save?" This texts leads readers to investigate within themselves some big questions that arise! I also really enjoyed a certain text feature of this Scottoline novel! There is a word that gets repeated often and I thought I knew what it was all about, but it is not until later that I realize I was wrong! It was something totally different! Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It was a good, quick read and the intensity remained constant throughout the novel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books! When you start to read this, make sure you have time because you will never want to put this book down!!! Scottoline really knows how to keep you at the edge of your seat! I cant wait to read more of her books. :) i loved this one!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book. Emotional, Mysterious, and Thought Provoking.
tedfeit0 More than 1 year ago
Bullying, and shining a spotlight thereon, is heralded as the reason this novel was written, but it plays such a minor role in the story that one wonders why it is even raised, except perhaps for the widespread publicity attendant to the subject. It does occupy, along with much extraneous and superfluous background, about the first half of the book. It is not until this reader got past that point that a modicum of interest arose. The plot is a mishmash of twisted lines. It begins with a fire in a newly opened elementary school, in which three persons are killed and two young children injured, one of whom is the young victim of the bullying, the eight-year-old daughter of Rose McKenna. Rose, serving as a lunch mom, saves two girls (one of them the bully), ushering them toward an exit, and returns through the fire to save her daughter, who is locked in the bathroom, emerging initially as a &ldquo;hero,&rdquo; but then criticized when it is learned that the bully was injured in the fire (how? It seems she returned to get something she had left behind) and Rose is accused of ignoring her in favor of her own daughter. Faced with civil and criminal charges, Rose undertakes to discover the reason for the fire (officially attributed to accidental causes) when she suspects foul play. This leads to further action, somewhat beyond belief. The novel is carefully constructed and well-written, but somehow doesn&rsquo;t fulfill its purpose, since, essentially, it is a murder mystery, but so overloaded with superfluous subplot that it becomes burdensome to read. The author usually writes legal thrillers which I have found to be so much better, and I for one hope she returns to that milieu.
CherieReads More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this book. I finished it in hopes that it would get better but I was disappointed. The premise - that a mother has to make a split second decision about whether to save her own child or someone else's and the consequences of that decision - was interesting and had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, that potential is never realized. The problems? 1 - The dialogue is many times cheesy and unrealistic. I found myself rolling my eyes quite often throughout the entire book. Especially the scenes between Rose and Leo. 2 - The chapters are very short which irritated me. I suppose the author used this style to try and ramp up the suspense but in reality it just irritated me. Just when things were getting good the chapter would end. It made for some choppy reading instead of a smooth buildup of suspense. 3 - The characters were not believable. Many of them were very one dimensional - Leo (the husband), Melly (the daughter), Eileen (the other girl's mother), the lawyer and others. They all played a very specific role in the advancement of the plot - and that's all. They were never developed enough to be believable people to me and much of their personalities seemed cliched to me. Rose herself was a little ridiculous. She was very wishy washy. At first she's the assertive mother lion, then she becomes this jellyfish and then she becomes a superhero. If there had been good character development that showed the character's personal progression through these stages it would have been ok, but as written she seems to almost have multiple personalities. 4 - The story starts out as one thing and then turns into something different altogether. The first half of the book is about Rose's dilemma (as described in the book's description) and how she must deal with the fallout - other people's perceptions of her, the media, legal issues, etc. This part of the book was interesting despite the flaws above. And then, the second half of the book is something completely different. We no longer hear about the lawsuits or criminal aspects of the story. We no longer see anything about how she deals with the new public perception of her. Instead, this turns into a bad mystery novel where the main character goes off on her own to solve a completely unbelievable mystery - why the fire happened in the first place. The circumstances that are revealed are ridiculous to say the least. This book is trying too hard to be too many things: a commentary on bullying, an emotional drama about an impossible decision, a Nancy Drew style mystery. It succeeds at none of them. I give it 2 stars because there were some parts (the first few chapters in particular) that held my interest and it was not bad enough for me to stop reading. Some entertainment can be had with this book if you are aware of its failings and are able to overlook them and suspend your belief for a little while. If you are looking for a real drama, look to Jodi Picoult or others. If you are looking for a serious mystery, look elsewhere. If you want a somewhat cheesy but maybe entertaining read continue with this one.