Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Three friends, Brianna, Sean, and Robert, happen across a body buried in their neighborhood. Because a police investigation might reveal that the trio is connected to a stolen motor, and that Sean’s mother was having a relationship with a neighbor, the three friends decide they must solve the apparent murder before contacting authorities. In the process, they sneak into a house, befriend a vigilant neighbor with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and develop a friendship with a kind, older man. Brianna becomes convinced that clues point to Sean’s father and realizes their detective work is doing more harm than good. She makes tough choices that affect families and friendships.
Right below the pipe, a human hand and wrist poked out from the dirt, its flesh partly rotted away. The fingers pointed at us.
I let out a panicked yell identical to Robert’s but stood frozen. A hot, prickly feeling crawled up my back as Sean shouted to Robert. “You okay, Robber?” When Robert murmured a response, Sean scrambled down to the creek. “Cover it up!” he demanded as he went, pointing at me. “Cover it back up!”
“We can’t just…” I started.
“Cover it up!” Sean was bending over, one hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Just do it!” I shoveled dirt and leaves at the void, breathing as little as possible and only glancing occasionally at the rotted appendage sticking out at me. Each scoop of crumbly soil slid back down, so finally I started stomping on it to get it to stay, right on top of the hand. I felt as if I was pressing down on something evil. Trying to keep it back. After a minute, Sean stood next to me working with Robert’s abandoned shovel. With his head turned away from the hole, he didn’t help much. Robert sat where he was, letting out little wails every now and then. It wasn’t a sound like the pain of a sprained ankle or something. It was more like the desperate moans of someone who’d forgotten how to talk.
Once we managed to get the hand covered, we scrambled down the bank, grabbed Robert by his arms, then half carried him and the tools back to the workshop we’d taken over from Sean’s dad. After breathing the rotten stench of the creek, I barely noticed Robert’s smell and couldn’t get that image of the decaying hand out of my mind. We set Robert down in one of the beaten-up old armchairs we’d dragged in there, then sank down ourselves, panting. The hot prickly feeling was still crawling all over me. Sean and I looked at each other for a few seconds, then away. Robert stared at the floor. I’d never seen a real skeleton — or a dead body – before. The tuna sandwich I’d eaten an hour earlier seemed to be on a climb back up. I imagined the scene once we called the sheriff; Sean’s parents would arrive home to a flock of cop cars in the driveway. Maybe there’d be a coroner’s van. They’d love driving into that mess.
Then things went from bad to worse. Sean leaned forward and pointed one finger at me and one at Robert. “We can’t tell anyone about this.” Robert peered out from under the layer of the coarse black hair fallen in front of his eyes.
“But Sean, somebody buried a body.”
“We know that, Robert,” Sean snapped. His nasty scowl reminded me of his father. “But nobody else is going to know that.”
“Why not?” that high voice again.
“That body where it is, it’s not by accident.” Sean turned to me, “Brianna, you know why we can’t tell anyone.” Like he was pleading with me. “You know.” –A Step Away
‘A Step Away’ is a YA Thriller about a group of friends finding a body in their neighbourhood and the unraveling threads of deception, family ties, and the disillusion of youth.
Following the thoughtful Brianna, you’re pulled onto an average street in an average town – there just happens to be a body slowly rotting by the creek with no clues as to who buried it or why. The trio face obstacles with their closed off families – Brianna struggling to connect with her selfish and greedy father, Robert still struggling with the tragic of his dad whichwis connected to Brianna’s father and his mother’s new boyfriend, and Sean is burdened with the knowledge of his mother’s affair and the need to protect her secrets. But did she have something to do with the dead body in the dirt? Or was it the man she cheated with?
‘A Step Away’ has mystery, plenty of depth, and the camaraderie you want from kids. I was expecting much more darkness to the story as we are dealing with a dead body here, but the darkness is kept at bay by the hijinks the kids get up to in order to bargain their way through the strange question they’ve set for themselves. Other than the body clawing at the back of their minds every few chapters, this would be much more of your average coming of age story. Brianna realising that her father is not the inspiring man she wanted him to be, and Sean struggling with his family’s secrets and silence, there’s a lot more underneath that isn’t explored that could have added much more colour to the plot.
But that’s coming at it from an adult point of view, from a teenager’s perspective I think ‘A Step Away‘ is a great YA Thriller with the right mix of darkness, mystery and adolescent hangups. Brianna is a the perfect character to have the point of view from as she’s the only girl in the group and sees things that the boys don’t. I have a theory that she may even have a ‘not so strictly’ heterosexual angle there as well, and if that is the case it’s a nod without being explicit which in this case is fine as the kids romantic interests are not central to the plot.
Kasten does a great job of writing adolescent kids and the anxieties and contradictory confidence they have. Sean is an apt example of the pushy friend everyone had who always got their way. And poor Robert is the submissive friend who just wants to avoid their bullying brother. A solid YA novel that explores what it’s like to share a dark secret with your friends and put the morals you’ve been taught on the back burner.
One to put on the shelf, and I’d imagine a teen coming back to read this one, peeling back a layer each time.
About the Author:
After some childhood acting and living in England for a year, I graduated from Reed College, then attended law school. As a litigator in California and Washington State for thirty years, I learned a great deal about what people really want, and also how humor helps in tough situations. Writing remains my main interest. I am the author of Just Trust Me: Finding the Truth in the World of Spin (Quest Books, 2011), a book about discerning truth from appearances. My young adult novel, A Step Away, will be published by Black Rose in 2019. I have also written a couple of short plays, which were performed at a local theatre in Marin County, CA. The Ribbons Agency is a nearly completed satirical book about the arduous task of securing a literary agent. On a more serious note, I am working on a non fiction book that presents a unique, logical reason to believe that greater international peace is inevitable. A resident of San Francisco’s east bay for most of my life, I have lived along Hood Canal (a fjord and part of Puget Sound) in Washington State for the past three years. I’m still adapting to the weather, though it keeps me inside and productive most of the year. When not writing, I’m enjoying the outdoors or playing improvisational piano. G. Kasten
Links to ‘A Step Away’ (ALWAYS LEAVE REVIEWS!):
Review organized by: R&R Book Tours
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