Friday, July 17, 2009

If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney

The Fountain family has faced endless grief within the last couple of years and their future seems quite bleak as well. First the children’s mother died, after refusing treatment for her fatal cancer so that she could give life to their baby brother Tris. Then, just two years later their father dies in a terrible accident leaving the four Fountain children alone and parentless with only their self-involved Aunt Cheryl left to care for them.

Within weeks the two Fountain daughters, Madison and Smithy flee, one going to live with her godparents and the other going to a boarding school hundreds of miles away. This leaves Jack to be the strong one, the one to take care of Tris, because Cheryl really only cares about herself and home makeover shows on TV. 

As Tris’ third birthday approaches, Cheryl decides that she is ready for fame and sells the family’s soap-opera story to a reality television producer and Jack knows that his life is about to be thrown upside down once again. The thing is though this event brings the family together again. Along the way they find out some troubling information that makes them think….did the witness of their dad’s death lie?

I believe if you looked up Caroline B. Cooney up in an encyclopedia you find “… author of heart-thudding thrillers.” I could literally not stop reading this book and absolutely gobbled it up. The book as a whole was great, but there were definitely some holes that I wish had been patched up. 

First of all, the plot was very original and was the driving force behind the “heart-thudding” feeling you got while reading the book. I loved how the author took a mystery and turned it into a novel about family, friendship, trust, loss, and love. These themes melded perfectly throughout the book and really made the reader take a step back and evaluate their own life in a different light. I did have a couple issues with the plot though. Some of the events, such as Cheryl gaining custody automatically over the children and there being no original investigation into the father’s death, were completely left out. This left a big gap for me as I felt it could have been a crucial part in the story. The storyline was also a bit predictable, but the suspense created by the little details really helped the reader to not focus on what was coming next. 

As for characters, this is really where the book lacked. All of the characters were one-dimensional; especially the adults, and I wish they were so much more.  The little we did get to learn about the characters though was great. Jack was definitely the hero in the book and by far a favorite, as he sacrificed his social life in order to step up to the plate and care for his younger brother.

Another plus for this book is the author’s writing style. She made the book incredibly realistic and all throughout the story I felt like I was reading an article from the local newspaper instead of a piece of fiction. Also the point of view she wrote the book in was quite interesting. It felt like a mix between third and first person, but all in the present tense, much like in Lisa McMann’s novels. This quirky style took a while to get used to but in the end it definitely added to the book.

Overall this was a good novel that all teen readers will enjoy. It had enough action to satisfy anyone and will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. I loved how the author dealt with the breaking and healing of a family and really showed what love is and its immense powers. 


Readingjunky said...

I agree - I "gobbled it up" too. Can't wait to share it with my students this fall. It should be a hit.

Nice review.

Amy said...

This book sounds really good and I will have to look out for it.

cool review!

Anonymous said...

Well, they did kind of leave an explanation for the lack of investigation. What Jack infered was that the police had no reason to suspect foul play and didn't want to put Tris through the media attention on an investigation.

I really enjoyed this book. I wish Jack had at least punched Cheryl.


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