I'm not alone in choosing to review this new Young Adult book for Nonfiction Monday--Becky and Jen have already done so. But it merits in depth coverage, so what the heck.
The Year We Disappeared (Bloomsbury, 2008, 271 pages in the ARC I read) is a memoir told in alternating chapters by Cylin Busby and her father, John. It describes with gripping immediacy the year they left normal life behind for a dystopian hell, and then escaped into a new life in rural Tennessee. Their journey began when Cylin was nine, in August of 1979, when her father's jaw gets shot off. Literally. John Busby was a police officer in Falmouth, Massachusetts, who had antagonized men who would stop at nothing. He lives through their attempt to kill him, undergoing a hellish reconstructive process, but the fact remains that they want him dead, and that his family is also at risk.
Once a pleasant home with lots of freedom, Cylin's home becomes a prison: "An eight-foot fence, a vicious dog, no visitors besides cops, the constant threat that some might want to do harm to us." On top of this, her life at school collapses. There is little hope in this messed-up world that justice will prevail, and for John, the desire to take revenge into his own hands is a constant threat to himself and his family. Plus the town of Falmouth is running out of money--all the police security, fence installation, savage dogs, etc. are quite expensive. Escape to a new anonymous life is the only answer.
This is gripping stuff, vividly described, and not for the faint of heart. It should appeal greatly to those who like dystopian fiction, and to lovers of true crime stories. But I was left wondering how on earth it was decided that this would be a Young Adult book (a question Jen also touches on). I kept expecting the family to disappear into their new lives much sooner than they did, but it wasn't until p 246 of the 271 pages that they arrived in Tennessee. A more accurate title might have been something like The Year of Hell We Endured Before We Disappeared. Because this is a YA book, I was anticipating the chance to read about Cylin's teenage years and her family regrouping. So I felt a tad cheated, in a way that I would not have if this had been given to me labeled an Adult Book.
This is not to say that teenagers won't enjoy this book--I bet there are lots who will. But, with its graphic violence, and what amounts to a victory for the bad guys (for the moment at least), it is not for the faint of heart.
As well as the two reviews from today linked to at the top, there's an earlier review here at the Reading Zone.
And here's the link to Nonfiction Monday, for the full roundup of today's non-fiction books, including many books that are not The Year We Disappeared!