They Never Came Back

They Never Came Back

by Caroline B. Cooney


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In a busy school cafeteria, a teenage girl is confronted by a classmate who questions her identity. He explains to the students who have crowded around that the girl bears an uncanny resemblance to his cousin, who was taken away by social services five years ago. Her parents abandoned her, fleeing the country after being accused of embezzling millions of dollars. The students are intrigued, but the girl shrugs off the attention as a case of mistaken identity.

As the days pass, however, the boy refuses to relent and even brings his parents in to back him up. But they are not the only adults involved. An FBI agent who has been working the case these past five years believes that whoever this girl is, she can serve as bait to help the FBI capture the fugitives. In this powerful novel that explores the possibility of mistaken identity, the evils of money and greed, and the heartfelt obligations of family and loyalty, Caroline B. Cooney has once again crafted a page-turner that will resonate with readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385738095
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/10/2011
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 451,855
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Caroline B. Cooney is the bestselling author of many books for young people, including the Janie quartet.

Read an Excerpt

* 1 *


It was the second week of summer school. The seven kids in Cathy Ferris's class were crowded around a table in the student center. Cathy opened her brown paper lunch bag to take out the sandwich she had made that morning. In the seat next to her, Ava began to frown. "Some boy from another class is staring at you, Cathy."

The attention of boys was always nice. Cathy finished the tiny act of sliding a peanut butter and banana sandwich out of its plastic bag.

Meg, sitting on the other side of Cathy, said, "Scary staring."

Cathy became aware that Graydon was upset, that Julianna was holding her breath, that Colton had set his soda can down without drinking from it, while Ethan's fork dangled in the air.

Cathy looked where they were looking.

The student center at Greenwich High was immense, with soaring ceilings, massive pillars and potted trees two stories high. Most tables, not needed for a summer school enrollment of sixty, were shoved close together at one side of the room. Fifty feet away from Cathy, a boy had risen to his feet. His eyes were glued to Cathy. He looked shocked, as if witnessing something terrible—as if Cathy were a car accident happening before his eyes.

He was tall and broad-shouldered and sturdy. His short hair was reddish blond. He looked like a jock having a meltdown. Slowly he pushed his chair out of his way and slowly moved across the open stone floor toward Cathy.

No one had ever stared at her like that. In the damp warmth of the poorly air-conditioned room, a chilly fear touched Cathy.

Even from this distance she could see that he was breathing hard, that he had lost color. Cathy found herself mirroring him. She too was shaking. Her class drew close, as if to protect her, and the cafeteria fell silent—sixty kids caught up in the boy's behavior. There was no sound except the faint squeak of his sneakers.

Cathy's fingers convulsed and crushed her brown paper lunch bag.

His eyes drilled into hers. She could not blink or move or think.

And then the boy was laughing. He turned into a happy little kid, clapping with delight. He bounced the rest of the way across the wide room. "Murielle!" he cried. "Murielle, is it you? It is you! Oh, wow!"

Cathy's mind was stuck. She couldn't take it anywhere.

"Murielle, it's me. Tommy. Where have you been?" His arms were out. He was expecting a hug, as if they were both small children on a playground.

She couldn't remember when anybody had been this glad to see her. What should she do? What should she say? It was hard even to move her lips. "I'm Cathy," she said, but he didn't hear. He actually knelt by her chair, as if expecting to fit her with a glass slipper. "You're Murielle," he said joyfully.

Joy—at seeing her. Cathy's heart skittered. Then she corrected herself. Joy at seeing Murielle.

Kids were now standing up for a better view. Graydon—the oldest in Cathy's class; he would be a senior in the fall—got up from their table, squatted beside the boy and said gently, "She isn't Murielle, Tommy. Her name is Cathy Ferris. She's in my Latin class."

Graydon was a serious student. No matter how much Cathy studied, he had studied more. He had learned a truly remarkable amount of Latin in ten days. Cathy was in awe of his intelligence. If Graydon said something, it was correct. But the boy Tommy brushed Graydon away, like hair in his eyes. "I know you're Murielle," he told her. His voice broke with emotion. "Have you been in Greenwich all along?"

Now kids crossed the room to gather around Cathy's table, so they wouldn't miss anything. Cathy felt as if she should have rehearsed. But what were her lines? "I don't live in Greenwich," she told him. She could not match his dancing eyes; his happy smile. "I live in Norwalk. My town is paying tuition so I can take the accelerated language course here this summer."

He shook his head, beaming at her. "You're Murielle."

Cathy's fingers pleated the lunch bag, spindling the brown paper. She asked the only reasonable question. "And who is Murielle?"

Tommy sank back on his heels. His smile faded.

Graydon stood up, extended a hand and pulled Tommy to his feet. Keeping a hand on Tommy's shoulder, as if to remind Tommy that he was among friends, Graydon said to the crowd, "Murielle was his cousin. She disappeared years ago."

There was a collective gasp of horror. "Disappeared" was a hideous word. Sixty kids stared at Tommy, whose cousin had disappeared, and then all sixty pairs of eyes turned on Cathy, who looked so much like that cousin.

Tommy sagged, looking as beaten as a kid who thought he had won the big basketball game, only to lose in the last two seconds. "It was five years ago," said Tommy, still staring, his delight replaced by a dazed disappointment. "She was ten. I thought you were—" he broke off. He sighed. Then he rallied. "I'm sorry," he said to Cathy, his voice almost normal. "I don't usually attack people in public places. I was just so sure that you were Murielle."

He was still sure; she could read it in his face. "It's okay," she said lamely.

The spectators didn't give up so easily. "What happened to your cousin, Tommy?" demanded Ava. "Was she kidnapped here in Greenwich? I don't remember a kidnapping. But five years ago I was only nine. Maybe I missed it."

Ava's loud voice woke Tommy from his hypnotized stare. He seemed unnerved to find himself in a sea of _witnesses. Most of these kids were from Greenwich, but a dozen from area towns, like Cathy, were paying tuition to attend the summer school. They were all attempting to master an entire year of a foreign language in six weeks. Monday through Friday, they had three hours of class before lunch, three hours after lunch, and at least three hours of homework. Weekends were homework around the clock. The kids in this program wanted to display exceptional academic ability, which might catapult them into a top college. Cathy was slightly surprised to find herself in this group.

She had found the Latin class online. There were subjects she researched regularly and up had popped this unusual summer school. The guidance office at Norwalk High did all the work of getting her accepted and finding the funds. The remaining problem had been transportation, since her parents worked and could not drive her back and forth. A car pool was arranged with another commuting student. Spencer Tartaglia lived in Wilton, even farther from Greenwich than Norwalk, and his mother agreed to pick Cathy up at the Merritt Parkway exit.

Spencer had a mop of messy curls that made him easy to spot in a well-trimmed group. He was standing at the back of the lunch crowd, as fascinated as everybody. This would make much more interesting car conversation than his Arabic or Cathy's Latin.

Tommy was clearly not happy talking about his cousin's disappearance. But he had little choice. Questions were coming like pellets from a shotgun. He took a deep breath and launched himself. "Murielle was not kidnapped. My aunt and uncle, Murielle's parents, ripped off clients at their brokerage firm. Investors and pension funds lost huge amounts of money, and my aunt and uncle got away with at least ten million dollars, and maybe ten times that. Not their own money, either." His face reddened with shame. Cathy thought of all the banking and brokerage moguls to appear in the news over the last few years; people who had presented a trustworthy face but had privately jeered at their clients, and stolen every dollar in sight.

"It was a big deal at the time," said Tommy. "Lots of media coverage. My aunt and uncle fled the country so they wouldn't face trial, but their daughter, my little cousin Murielle, got left behind."

Left behind.

Every child's worst nightmare. Alone in the house without Mommy and Daddy. Running from one empty room to another.

Cathy remembered being ten years old. It was a fragile age. Ten-year-olds had to have grown-ups.

"My parents wanted her to live with us," said the boy, "but Murielle got put in foster care and vanished into the system. We went to court to get her back."

They had gone to court? Had lawyers? Faced a judge?

"But we failed," he said, as if he were still puzzled by that; still could not believe the court's decision.

"Failed" was as frightening as "left behind" or "disappeared." The sixty kids in this room had never failed. It was an alien concept.

"Murielle's probably okay," said Tommy. His voice dwindled. He was talking more to himself than to the crowd. "Or at least okay-ish, but she's lost to us."

His pain swamped Cathy. It was easier to look at her classmates. Ava, Meg, Graydon, Ethan and Colton were transfixed by Tommy. But Julianna was watching Cathy. An expression of pure loathing crossed her face.

Cathy was jolted. It can't be me she despises. It has to be Murielle. But who could despise a ten-year-old? Especially a ten-year-old nobody's seen in five years?

"I remember that, Tommy!" cried somebody. "Your aunt and uncle—weren't they hedge fund manipulators or something? Lyman was their name. Rory and Cade Lyman. Didn't they catch a plane about five minutes before they were going to be arrested, and now they're safe in France or Namibia or Singapore?"

Tommy shrugged. "Nobody knows where they are. If federal prosecutors could figure out my aunt and uncle's location, they'd be extradited. Well, from France, anyway. I don't know about those other two countries, whether they have a treaty with the U.S. or not."

There was a rustle as people whipped out BlackBerrys and cell phones to Google the name Lyman.

"Tommy," said Ava, in her platoon sergeant voice, "do you have a photograph of Murielle? Let's compare it to Cathy and see if we see this resemblance."

Cathy had to end this. "I'm taking Latin," she said to Tommy, as if they were getting acquainted under normal circumstances. "What language are you taking?"

He couldn't change the subject along with her. He was blank. Somebody answered for him. "He's taking Chinese."

"When I signed up for summer school, Chinese sounded too hard. I wanted a language that uses an alphabet." She was babbling. "Preferably the alphabet I _already know."

"Cathy!" said Ava. "You are somebody's double—and you want to talk about a dead language?"

Everybody laughed. Even Tommy laughed.

Cathy actually felt double, as if she were a paper doll waiting to be unfolded.

"There's no such thing as a double," somebody said. "Except identical twins. Anybody else is just similar."

Julianna slid to the back of the crowd where Cathy could no longer see her. Cathy felt like crying. The four girls in Latin had become friends in an hour, one of the unexpected delights of the summer. She loved being with Meg and Ava and Julianna. Surely she wasn't losing Julianna's friendship because of this!

"How do you spell 'Murielle'?" Ava asked Tommy. "I never heard it before."

Cathy was pretty sure that Ava did not care how "Murielle" was spelled; she wanted to keep on talking to Tommy. And who wouldn't? He was adorable, the perfect combination of big hunk and little kid.

"Usually it's pronounced Muriel," said Tommy. "But my aunt Rory and my uncle Cade said Murielle."

A little murmur ran through the group, everybody trying out the name Murielle.

"I've got information on Rory and Cade Lyman," called Meg, triumphantly waving her cell. "Listen to this," she said, looking back at the information on her tiny screen. "Those two made it to England, and after that, no trace of them was ever found, and they never came back for their kid."

"Don't go there," said Tommy wearily. "It's history."

Too late. It was now a current event. All around her, kids were texting. Cathy felt as if she were literally a news item, flung from mouth to mouth, phone to phone.

Ava said, "What kind of parents decide that money and freedom matter more than their little girl? What did they do—sit over dinner and draw up a list? Weigh the advantages? Say to each other—'Okay then: we keep the money, we bail on the kid.'"

Cathy looked down at her crushed brown paper bag. Then she shook it out and dropped the uneaten sandwich back inside. Blindly, she looked around for a trash can.

From the top of a massive curving concrete stair—one Cinderella might descend if she were a mud wrestler—came a shout. "People! Didn't you hear the bell? Time for class. Let's go, here! We're on a tight schedule."

This was a group that never willingly missed a minute of class. Immediately they were heading for their separate rooms. The Latin students waited for each other. Meg was saying, "I'm texting my dad. He's an attorney in town and he'll remember the details."

Tommy was still watching Cathy. She smiled awkwardly.

Tommy blew out his breath in a noisy huff. "The resemblance is really strong when you smile. My aunt Rory had that smile."

Cathy shut down the smile and stood there helplessly until his Chinese class dragged him off.

The kids taking Arabic, German and Latin had almost forgotten that Chinese was also being offered, because in the beginning the Chinese class had prepared their own meals as a conversational and cultural exercise. They did not come to the student center for lunch. It turned out that school insurance did not cover kids using hot stoves and smoking oil, so now they were eating with everybody else. That was why Tommy had not laid eyes on Cathy until today.

"Wow," summarized Spencer, her ride. He took the lunch bag out of her hand and threw it away for her. "You okay?" His smile was quizzical. He too was wondering if she could be Murielle Lyman.

"Just a little shaken," she said. With Tommy gone, she could let her real smile out.

Spencer grinned back. "Text me if you need to," he said. They were easy with each other, after a week and a half of carpooling. It was nice to have an ally.

At the top of the cast concrete stairs, Meg and Ava waited. No Julianna. What was going on with Julianna?

When she had caught up to them, Ava said, "Guess what? While you were fiddling with your lunch, Tommy took pictures of you on his cell phone."

"Oh?" said Cathy.

"Only one reason to do that. He still thinks you're Murielle," said Ava. "He's going to forward those pictures and get a second opinion."

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They Never Came Back 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
MasonAAM More than 1 year ago
They never came back is about this girl who goes to summer school in a different city then where she is from. During lunch, a young girl is confronted, and asked about her identity. He says that she looks strangley the same as his cousin that was taken away by social services 5 years ago. this causes problems for Cathy. i really liked this book, it was very good, it was a fast read. You didnt ever want to put down the book because it was so good. you wanted to continue to read more and more. i would recommend this book, for more advanced readers, it gets kind of confusing. but a very good book
mournfulsilentwhisper More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Caroline B. Cooney. An astounding book!! She has great writing skills. This story line was definitely an original, and I have already added several more books by Caroline B. Cooney to my reading list.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They Never Came Back is a complex story that tells two different sides of the same person. The author uses a creative style of writing that allows the reader to take an interest in which they can read two different stories that build up to suspense and will both catch up to the present. The main character Cathy is an accelerator in school who has an ear for language and is taking a summer school course to increase her academics. One day during lunch, one of her classmates gets up and is shocked to see that Cathy has an uncanny resemblance to his cousin Murielle who has been missing for five years due to an unsuspected accident. All the pressure then goes on Cathy, and the whole thing becomes a developmental research for everyone to investigate. The story gives two main sides that tell what happens in the character's life. In the Chapters that talk about Murielle; it gives a behind-the-scenes look at what happens to her in the way that she lived and how that relates to Cathy. In the chapters that talk about Cathy, she tries to reflect on a pleasant life that she used to have throughout the story, and then goes directly into a downpour when she is mistaken for someone else and it changes her life forever. Murielle is supposed to be meeting her parents in England, instead something unexpected happens, and Murielle ends up living with foster families moving from house to house wondering what is actually happening with her life. The other part of the book talks about how her parents Rory and Cade are involved in a robbery, stealing money from investors and focuses around if they actually did love Murielle or if they just spoiled her and thought that money was more important. The author talks about different themes that build up suspense that makes you think what would be more important in terms of what the situation would be. The story then falls into the present time about what happens to Cathy, and begins to unravel the past that haunts her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book "They Never Came Back" by Caroline B Cooney tells a very amazing story. The book tells about the struggles a little girl named Murielle faces when her parents all of a sudden become thieves. Murielle's parents run away after stealing money for years and stealing tom very close people including Murielle's moms sister. her moms sister is suppose to bring her daughter to the airport to meet her dad so they can meet their mom in another country and go from there to a completely different country and run away together as a family and they will never be found. Murielle's aunt decides not to take her to the airport to meet her parents so she ends up never going with them. she does not talk to her parents for around five years and become a completely different person throughout those years and even changes her name. She ends up living a double like a tries her hardest to block out the life of Murielle. Murielle goes to a foster home, more than one foster home and she decides to take a foreign language class at a school far away. Murielles cousin ends up also at going to the school and seeing her and noticing her but she acts like she has no idea what he is talking about and making him sound crazy and like he has no idea what he is talking about. After not talking to any family, her parents or anyone for five total year does Murielle actually come out and say who she really is and start telling the truth and try to get in contact with her parents or will she continue to run?
ChristianR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kind of an odd book about a girl who was abandoned by her fugitive parents when she was ten. Five years later, she is living with foster parents under a different name, attending summer school, when her long-lost cousin recognizes her. Should she reveal herself at Murielle, or continue to pretend that she's always been Cathy? It could have been better, but wasn't because the other students in the book especially were really irritating and unrealistic. An interesting concept not particularly well thought out.
Rowdycat More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Caroline B. Cooney for many years; I first discovered her when I was a middle school librarian. She writes page turners, and this book was no disappointment. Cathy got caught in the middle of a very traumatic situation, her parents bilked people out of millions of dollars and then fled the country when they got caught. They were supposed to take Cathy with them, but it didn't happen. They didn't care enough about her to find a way to get her to them, and she ended up in several foster homes, for five years, until she gets reunited with her mother's sister and her family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a amazing book but it gets better once u relize who murielle is but i have to say im disapointed inthe ending how could she just leave dad bob and his wife like that!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadingFixesMe More than 1 year ago
A book hasn't made me cry in a while but this one made me bawl my eyes out. The story line questions the world of greed and how far you would go to love and protect those closest to you. Cathy and Murielle were great charecters and i was able to feel their emotions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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-Chelsea-CF More than 1 year ago
They Never Came Back was a very well writtin book incorporating both corruption and love. The main characters Cathy Ferris and Murielle Lyman are two very differant people but when Murielle's cousin Tommy claims Cathy is his missing cousin everyone researchs the topic, and believes the same. Cathy denies the claim but when the FBI wants to use her for a sting becasue of her resemblance to Murielle. Ava her summer school friend sets up a facebook for Murielle. When Rory and Cade write her a message Cathy breaks down and shows her true identity. This book was great I gave it a four out of five beceause while it was good I wishes they would hve elaborated more about the whereabouts of Rory and Cade and How Cathy and Murielle live when Cathy comes clean.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good one :))
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
After reading this book I was able to learn many things but one thing that I feel is very important is that you must first forgive others for their actions and then forgive yourself for your actions. For example, when the main character Cathy Ferris/Murielle Lyman gets connection, at last with her runaway parents, instead of telling them to come and have them arrested for stealing money, she tells them to run. Even when her parents abandon her, cause her friends mother to go to prison and commit a crime Cathy/Murielle forgives her parents and even protects them. Another example is when Cathy/Murielle is 10, she gets sent to her new foster home and runs away to see her parents again, but gets caught at the rail road station for attempting to travel alone. Later that day her foster mother sends her to another foster home because runaways are too much responsibility for her. Cathy/Murielle realizes afterwards what she did was wrong but she forgives herself for what she did. I believe that forgiving others and forgiving yourself is important in life because if you don't, you will never be able to move on in life and you will always be stuck in the past and regret your actions. But forgiving others and yourself is not easy for example in Cathy/Murielle's case it takes her about 5 years to forgive both her parents and herself. In conclusion, this book has taught me to learn to forgive others for their actions to forgive yourself.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
THEY NEVER CAME BACK by Caroline B. Cooney is a great thriller for middle grade readers. There are just enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers focused, and it offers a few thought-provoking questions to make readers consider just exactly what they would do in the same circumstances. Chapter one is about Cathy. She is enrolled in a special accelerated summer school. The program squeezes one full year of Latin into a summer course. Her focus is Latin morning, noon, and night. One afternoon in the cafeteria, Cathy is shocked when a boy named Tommy approaches her table and calls her Murielle. He even drops to his knees before her as he insists she is his long-lost cousin. He claims she was taken from his home five years ago by social services. Then he adds that she had been abandoned by her parents, who were guilty of stealing millions of dollars from business investors. Suddenly, Cathy is the center of attention. Chapter two begins with Murielle. Ten-year-old Murielle is a lucky girl. Her parents are in the financial investment business, and they are able to provide her with anything her heart desires. She is used to living in a fancy house, having pretty clothes, new things whenever she wants, and private lessons in just about anything she is interested in doing. Even though they are constantly working and leave her in the care of various babysitters and housekeepers, Murielle thinks her parents are terrific. One afternoon, Murielle is with her Aunt Lois headed toward the airport. The plan is that her aunt will be dropping her off to catch a flight with her father. They will be flying to England where they will meet up with her mother. Suddenly, Aunt Lois turns the car away from the airport and begins shouting about how she won't go through with the plans. Murielle has no idea what is going on except that she is not going to be going with her parents. At that point her life changes forever. Could Cathy and Murielle really be one and the same? Is Cathy, who lives with a struggling foster family, really the daughter of millionaire investors? It's been five years since their scandalous disappearance. Could they really have been more interested in money than in their adorable little Murielle? THEY NEVER CAME BACK is a fast-paced novel with a unique plot. Caroline B. Cooney's smooth flowing prose will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they follow the action to see just exactly who is who in this clever mystery.