Title: Are You Still There
Author: Sarah Lynn Scheerger
Published by: Albert Whitman; September 1, 2015
Format/Source: E-Arc provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 3 Stars
Are You Still There was an interesting book. It had a really intriguing concept, but I felt like it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. This was a quick read and I was never bored, but I did have some issues with the book.
The book starts with our main character, Gabi, hiding out in the school bathroom. She doesn’t know exactly what’s going on until she is found and evacuated. Then she learns about the bomb threat. An actual bomb was planted at the school, but it was found in time to diffuse it.
In the aftermath, the school puts in place measures they believe will help the students to move on and feel safe again. More counselors at school and an anonymous peer helpline run by one of the counselors, with the help of a diverse group of students, including Gabi.
One of the problems I had with this book was everyone’s reaction to the bomb threat. This was a real bomb and it felt like the reactions were muted. Everyone seemed to move on from it pretty quickly, except for the helpline students and the detectives and police, who were still searching for the would-be bomber. It seemed like the book overall, took a lighter approach to this really tough subject. Because the bomb didn’t actually go off, the book didn’t get as intense as I thought it would, at least not early on.
My other big issue with this book was the helpline. This is not something that should ever be allowed to happen in real life, at least not the way it was portrayed in this book. These young kids were put on a helpline with no supervision and no training. All they were allowed to do was listen and pass along numbers for the appropriate professionals. I don’t know about you but if I called a helpline and all they wanted to do was give me the number of someone else to call, that doesn’t seem very helpful. Also, they had these kids at the school at night, again with no supervision, and no escort between the building and parking lot, in the dark. The whole helpline situation just made me angry and scared for those children.
One of the things I liked about this book was the Stranger’s Manifesto. We get a little glimpse into the mind of the would-be bomber. How they think and the motivation behind the attempted attack. I love books with villain pov’s. They shed a lot of light on both sides of the story and it worked pretty well in this story.
I was hoping for a compelling thriller and this book just didn’t cut it. It was a little too heavy on the drama and romance. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone.