This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
**Thank you to Disney Hyperion for providing me with a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purposes of review**
I don’t think I would have known anything about this book if it weren’t for a call that Netgalley hosted, and when this book was described, I knew that I had to try and get my hands on it.
“Five boys go on a camping trip, only four come back alive.” How can anyone resist something like that? And with such a striking cover as well — yes, never judge a book by its cover, but this is a truly well-designed cover.
I think YA thrillers are an interesting beast: they need to evoke a “traditional” adult thriller in their pacing, their sense of urgency, and in their pervasive darkness. But the protagonists are young adults; they do not have the same resources or tactics as, say, the detectives or lawyers of other popular thrillers marketed at adults. I find this often makes the actions of the protagonists more interesting, because they have to use methods that might be considered unconventional in order to makeup for their lack of readily available resources.
In the cast of this novel, several things stand out to me: first is the alternating narration. Part of this book is written as narration from the “River Point Boy” who actually committed the murder; his identity, however, is left a secret until the big reveal at the close of the novel. I like this tactic; I like hearing the inside of the killer’s head, and I like getting it in teaser-like chunks. It’s what I like the call the “Scheherazade effect”: giving me only just enough so that I always come back wanting more.
Second is the other perspective we get in this novel from Kate Marino. She’s a senior high school student interning at the DA’s office and has a bit of a history with the River Point Boys, especially with the victim, Grant. There’s a good fire lit in her to solve the case, both for “professional” and personal reasons, which is refreshing — had it only been for the personal reasons brought to light early in the novel, I might have found Kate a little on the side of irritating. But she’s strong and adamant in her convictions, and has a constant drive that makes her a compelling protagonist.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the ending in some way. Revealing the “whodunnit” of any thriller is, I think, both the most paramount and most dangerous part of said novel. It’s paramount because, after all, we’ve been chasing the “who” for the entire novel, so it needs to be worth everything we’ve read, but the characters also need to have earned their discovery. But the danger comes not only in the potential of not earning the ending, or making it worth the reader’s while, but more in that it’s the end. It’s like the deflation of a balloon sometimes, and there’s often nothing the author can do about that feeling. I think of the line from the musical Hamilton: “And just like that it’s over / we tend to our wounded, we count our dead.”
That’s sort of the best way I can describe reaching the end of This is Our Story…suddenly, it’s just over.
And that’s not the fault of the book in any way — I say this as a kind of criticism, but it’s also a criticism for which I see no other option. That’s just how this story was inevitably going to end. It’s just the nature of the genre.
On the whole, this is a well-writte, well-devised, and tension-riddled YA thriller of a high caliber. It’s got more than enough intrigue to satisfy the appetite of any fan of the genre, as well as maybe convert a few new readers. I look forward to more work from this author.
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