Publishing year: 2016
This is a thriller and quite an uncomfortable book.
It deals with the complex topic of bullying. In the prologue we find Laura running, trying to find her daughter Autumn, and then she finally finds her unconscious and covered in blood. Is she dead? We don’t know.
Next we get to meet Laura and Autumn properly as they go about their days. Laura is divorced when her husband decided to leave her and their daughter for his girlfriend. Laura is a horticulturist, trying to set her own business as well as studying for her PhD. After the divorce Laura moved to Bristol, and she and Autumn are trying to fit in. Yet, problems start when Autumn tells her that a boy, Levi, calls her names and even plays practical jokes on her. Laura talks to her teacher, but the woman doesn’t seem to take her seriously.
That afternoon when Autumn doesn’t return from school, Laura sets off to find her, and she finds her daughter, surrounded by big boys, one of whom is Levi, and she sees they have torn Autumn’s paintings. Laura confronts the boys, who don’t feel intimidated by her. They are so horrible, and I can understand the anger Laura feels. Then she makes a mistake. She pushes Levi, and the boy ends up falling, hitting his head on a rock and even his cheek is split open. Laura and Autumn leave in a hurry, and all the weekend Laura and Autumn are worried, but then nobody comes to talk to Laura about what she has done.
At the moment Laura’s mother is staying with her, but she doesn’t dare to tell her what she had done. Also her internet connection is not working so she calls an IT technician, Aaron, one of the parents she met recently at the school gate. The man calls and fixes the problem, but he tells her that he would set a program so that he could monitor her computer from his home.
On Monday problems start again. Autumn realizes that a lovely pen that her mother gave her and she loves isn’t in her case and she tells her teacher that she thinks that Levi took her. Then when they check the case, the pen is there, and the teacher lightly scolds her for accusing another child wrongly. Somehow that comes back to Levi, and in the school yard a group of children jostle Autumn and call her a liar. I feel so frustrated with this story. I know things like this happen, and it is so unfair, especially when teachers are so lenient and are not there when they have to be.
Then Laura has another problem coming. Levi’s father is Aaron, who humiliates and accuses her in front of all the parents, and all the mothers flinch and look at her as if she had the plague. Even Rebecca, who Laura had befriended, recoils and flees from her as if she were a monster. I can’t condone what Laura did, and she is the first to regret it, but it is so infuriating that a boy like Levi could bully a sweet girl like Autumn. It is not fair.
Now I am afraid for Laura and Autumn. The book is told from the perspectives of Laura and Autumn, and when Autumn first saw Aaron in her house, she could feel something dark in the man, something that escaped her mother because she was too blinded by the man’s attractiveness. Now this man has the passwords of her emails and other accounts, and has set a program to monitor her laptop. That is not all. When he left her house, he wanted to leave through the back gate, and Laura gave her the number to unlock it. I am afraid that this man is more dangerous than he lets on, and I wonder if he will start terrorizing Laura and Autumn.
The start is great, and I have to say that reading this book is not comfortable. I can’t help but feel outraged and irritated on behalf of Autumn, and afraid for her and her mother.