- What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson
Trade ed. ISBN 9781250268099 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781250268105 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 9–12
Jack Dahl and Ava Bardem, high school classmates, have no illusions about their fathers, who colluded years ago in a pawnshop robbery, for which Jack’s father was imprisoned while Ava’s dad escaped. Dahl Senior stashed the stolen money somewhere, and Jack is desperate for money; his drug-addicted mother has just committed suicide, and if he can’t lay his hands on cash, social services will send him and his younger brother, Matty, into foster care. Dahl won’t reveal where the money is hidden, but when Bardem Senior discovers that Jack is looking for it, he pursues Jack, intent on retrieving the money and silencing any remaining witnesses, including Jack, Matty, and his own daughter, who is helping the boys. This is a classic noir set-up, executed by Anderson with gut-wrenching pacing as Ava narrates what she witnessed and what she knows. Her knowledge about her psychopathic father is extensive, including his murder of her mother; but her unsettling omni-science proves to have come at a high price. A final chapter that suggests a sort of Groundhog Day circularity unnecessarily muddies the thriller’s waters, but readers who like their novels pitch dark and bone chilling will revel in the horrifying villain and the trio of kids locked into a dilemma they cannot possibly resolve.