Dark Room Etiquette

­HarperTeen. Oct. 2022. 512p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063051737.
Gr 9 Up–Roe’s abduction thriller opens with protagonist Sayers “Saye” Wayte chained in a room, beholden and captive to a man with an unknown motive. Roe quickly shifts the narrative to the start of Saye’s junior year at Laurel High School, where readers learn of his popularity, wealth, and complete disregard for the rules. The first chapters show Saye, knowing the influence of the Wayte family name, interrupt a school assembly, bully a fellow student without consequences, and cut class to hang out with his friends. This is when he is abducted, with his captor, Caleb, believing Saye to be his missing son, Daniel. Caleb forces Daniel’s identity onto Saye through emotional and physical abuse, and almost a full year passes before Saye is rescued. The final third of the book encompasses Saye’s recovery from the trauma, and how he makes amends while trying to forge a new identity. Unfortunately, Saye’s entitlement and actions in the early chapters make him hard to identify with, and supporting characters are flat, two-dimensional, and default to white. The captivity is disturbing, but it proceeds too slowly to hold readers’ interest. References to drugs, sex, and alcohol exist, but connect to school events and exist separately from Saye’s abduction.
VERDICT The premise certainly grabs interest, but a lack of strong supporting characters, slow plot development, and a meandering resolution will frustrate even the most patient readers. Not recommended.

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