Sunday 29 July 2018

All These Beautiful Strangers

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth (PenguinRandom House) PB $17.99 ISBN 9780241329498
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This young adult novel is set in the prestigious Knollwood Augustus Prep school in the US where Charlie Calloway is beginning her second last year of high school. She receives an invitation to the secret club called the ‘A’s’ − who work behind the scenes for their own ends. Charlie sneaks out of her dorm room with her best friend Drew for the initiation and begins a morally challenging journey. She finds the mystery of her mother’s disappearance is inexplicably linked to the organisation she has just joined.

Charlie is from a wealthy family who are alumni of the school. Her father Alistair is a wealthy business man and Charlie spends her summers sailing at Martha’s vineyard. However beneath all this glamour, there has been tragedy. Charlie’s mother Grace disappeared ten years ago at their house at Langley Lake. At first, Alistair, a rather cold and distant father, was accused of having something to do with Grace’s disappearance, but a body has never been found.

Charlie carries the stigma of her family drama around with her, which partly excuses the selfish way she behaves. The fact that Grace was from the other side of the tracks, gives Charlie some perspective, out of the bubble of Knollwood Prep. Charlie has a couple of romantic interests – one from each of the worlds. There is Dalton, a fellow member of the A’s, the son of Alistair’s ex-girlfriend Margot and Greyson, the son of Grace’s best friend Claire.

The chapters are written initially from Charlie’s point of view, but as the mystery develops, chapters from Alistair and Grace (from ten years before) are included. This works well to flesh out the characters of the parents that Charlie really doesn’t know. The story is essentially about secrets, the consequences of covering them up and being brave enough to admit to mistakes.

Down the page side of the book are the letters I KNOW, which is one of the clues Charlie finds when searching for the truth about her mother. As a cover design, it clearly signals this is a thriller/mystery book.

I found Charlie’s emotional journey compelling . Suitable for secondary school students, Elizabeth Klehfoth’s first novel is a page turner until the mystery is solved. 

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