The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
Harper Collins, 2016. ISBN 9780008115067
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. For a girl who didn't leave her house for three weeks, a road trip to save her best friend is almost too much - thankfully the anxiety-ridden Wylie is much better in an emergency than at home. Despite beginning like a typical YA drama, McCreight's novel quickly progresses into something more sinister.
Cassie is missing. No one knows where she is. Her mum suspects that she's taken off. Cassie hasn't been the same since she started dating Jasper and got accepted into the 'Rainbow Coalition'. While Wylie has tried to be a good friend and keep Cassie safe, Cassie refused to listen - now she's missing and Wylie is worrying whether she could have kept Cassie around had they been speaking. Already blaming Jasper, Wylie is shocked when he shows up claiming that Cassie has sent him. Soon enough Wylie too receives a mysterious text from Cassie, pleading for help and providing directions to an unknown location. What choice does Wylie have but to fly to her friend's rescue? But leaving the house is a bigger deal than just walking out the front door - with anxiety so crippling she had to switch to homeschooling and a father who is keeping a big secret. Soon Wylie, Cassie, and Jasper will learn that they are part of something bigger than just Cassie going off the rails. She was kidnapped 'for her own safety'; will they be able to save her before she becomes just another missing person?
A fast-paced mystery thriller with elements of speculative fiction, this novel is both easy to read and engrossing. I finished the book in a single sitting, continually promising myself 'just one more chapter'. Well written, The Outliers explores the importance of honesty and loyalty in friendships - without a prominent romantic sub-plot for Wylie, there is nothing to distract her from her battle with anxiety, and her desire to keep her friends safe. I would highly recommend this novel for readers over the age of fourteen who enjoy mystery with a hint of speculative fiction.
Kayla Gaskell (University student aged 20)