Only She Came Back

Little, Brown. Nov. 2023. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316536080.
Gr 9 Up–Callum Massey, a 24-year-old YouTuber and survival guru, disappears in New Mexico, and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Kiri Dunsmore, walks out of the desert covered in his blood. The internet goes wild analyzing the couple’s videos and the content she posted after his disappearance, with the court of public opinion convinced that Kiri is a cold-blooded killer. Less convinced is aspiring true-crime podcaster Samara, who is obsessed with cases involving female killers and went to high school with Kiri in Vermont. Now working at a movie theater in Burlington, VT, and grappling with the aftermath of a breakup, Sam struggles to reconcile the glossy, erratic girl in the videos with the sweet, shy person she used to know. Determined to be the one to tell Kiri’s story, Sam insinuates herself into Kiri’s life—but as Kiri starts asking Sam for favors, Sam’s journalistic objectivity, and increasingly her safety, is compromised. Loosely modeled after the Gabby Petito case, this is a gripping, twisty mystery with strong thematic appeal for readers, exploring the pressures of social media fame, the ethics of true-crime reporting, topics of grooming and abusive relationships, and post-climate collapse survivalism. Transcripts of YouTube videos and entries from Kiri’s diary are interspersed with Sam’s first-person narration. All characters are cued white; Sam is ace/demi and romantically interested in women.
VERDICT An addictive, spine-tingling mystery with an of-the-moment plot, this is a book to hand to fans of Tess Sharpe or Holly Jackson.

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