Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hanging By A Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Sixteen year old Clare Knight and her mother have recently returned to their old home in Winston, California. Clare left Winston when she was ten years old, after the break up of her parent's marriage and moved to San Francisco with her mom. But when Clare's father encountered financial problems, Clare's mother was able to take possession of the family home once again. Their old home was once the family dress shop, several generations ago. It was where Clare's great-great-grandmother, Alma, was murdered along with a young woman for whom she was sewing a wedding dress. That night Alma died, but her unborn child, Josie, was saved and since that day, people in Winston claim that the house is haunted.

But something unusual also happened that night. The women in Clare's family were given a special gift that has passed from Josie to Clare's eccentric Nana and now to her. Clare's gift is that she experiences visions of a person's past life when touching their clothing.

When the novel opens, the town of Winston is making preparations for the July 4 celebrations in an attempt to move on from the tragedies experienced the previous two years; the murder of a 10 year old boy, Dillon Grange and last year the unsolved disappearance of Amanda Stavros.

When Clare moved back to Winston, she reconnected with her best friend from middle school, Rachel. Clare, with the help of Rachel, has started a vintage clothing business. Clare is the brains and the force behind the business. She spends her time scouring vintage shops, garage sales and even garbage bins for discarded clothing that she remakes into wearable fashions.

One evening after returning home from a party, Clare opens a box of donated clothing to see what she can use for her business. When she touches a torn, Ripley Couture jean jacket she experiences a powerful vision involving a violent incident.At first Clare believes this is just another vision, but when she goes to a party that night, she has a second vision when she touches a friend of missing girl, Amanda. In this vision Clare sees Amanda wearing the Ripley Couture jacket. Clare comes to the realization that the jacket she has hidden in a box in her closet at home holds clues to Amanda's disappearance.

While Clare struggles to come to terms with the visions she has experienced, she also begins to realize that other people in Winston are also keeping secrets. She discovers that Rachel has lied to her and not been upfront about her life in Winston. Clare meets Jack, a handsome boy with a troubled past, whom she is attracted to. But one touch leads her to realize that he too has secrets. Jack dated Amanda just before her death and was considered a prime suspect by the Winston police.

When Clare seeks advice from her Nana, who has the same "gift" of seeing other people's past, she is told to leave things alone. Clare has been told by her Nana that if she ignores the visions and doesn't act on them, they will go away. But can Clare risk that, when she might possibly learn who is responsible for Amanda's disappearance and the death of Dillon?

Overall this was a novel with an interesting premise but a rather predicable and somewhat disappointing ending. I was puzzled as to how the inhabitants of Winston could possibly link together two seemingly unrelated events - the death of Dillon with the disappearance of Amanda, other than the fact that they occurred, a year apart, on the same holiday. The author however, does tie the two events together in a believable manner. Readers will easily guess where the storyline is going, the climax of the novel is definitely exciting and revealing, but the resolution is weak and not at all believable.

There are plenty of descriptions of vintage clothing and the art of sewing, which young readers who sew and fans of vintage will certainly appreciate, but which for most might read as too much detail. What will keep readers going is Clare's hunt for more clues as she tries to piece together what has happened in Winston over the previous two years. As she learns more about the people of Winston, the number of potential suspects begins to grow.

I enjoyed the well developed characters in this novel. Clare is a strong character who, unlike her Nana, chooses to use her "gift". She decides to forge her own path, not only with the use of her special ability but also in her choice of a career. Clare also must decide if she will run with Rachel's crowd who party and engage in casual sex or be true to herself.

Jack is also a likable character, having learned some hard lessons after the death of his father. Despite his cynicism and sometimes open hostility, he gradually develops into a reliable confidant for Clare. Their relationship is typically strange, with Clare falling for the bad boy, despite experiencing visions that resonate with anger and violence. One would think that would be more than enough to make her at least hesitate. In the end, with no one to turn to, Clare decides to trust Jack with her secret, which unbelievably, he takes in stride.

The beautiful cover will draw readers to read this novel, but many might find the ending somewhat disappointing.

Book Details:
Hanging By A Thread by Sophie Littlefield
New York: Delacorte Press                   2013
270 pp.

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