Taken Away, by Patty Friedmann

By Emily Russell

Summer’s little sister went missing in Katrina – and her mother blames Summer.

Summer Elmwood’s parents don’t believe in television, computers, cell phones, air conditioning, or caller ID. They don’t believe in evacuation, either – which is how they ended up living in their local Baptist Hospital when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Summer’s little sister, Amalia, was having open-heart surgery a week before the storm… but when Summer’s family is forced to evacuate, Amalia is gone. Now they’re living with shallow, selfish, rich Aunt Sharon, and Summer’s family is convinced she hid or murdered Amalia. With a secret cell phone, her best friend Haydn, and a new friend Robert, it’s up to her to find her sister.

I had a mixed reaction to this book. On the one hand, the language and several things about drugs and other activities were simply unnecessary. Yes, Summer’s parents were strange ex-hippies. Yes, Summer was a ‘normal teen.’ This doesn’t mean a lot of the content really needed to be in there; the story was perfectly fine without it. Another problem I had was the writing; the story is told from Summer’s point of view, and her thoughts are often confusing. Half the time you feel like you’re a stranger trying to understand a small-town inside joke. Other times Summer just seems fickle or unrealistic. (Example: going from “I love my baby sister and must find her!” to “I have to find Amalia because my parents won’t pay attention to me if I don’t.”)

On the other hand, the story itself was amazing. It protrays the various facets of the tragedy called Katrina, along with other issues in New Orleans. The events pull you in; whether or not you like or care about Summer’s family, something makes you want to know – need to know – if they ever find Amalia. Depending on your feelings towards the Elmwoods, you also end up wondering what happened to Amalia – did someone take her? murder her? who? why? – and who finds her, if she’s ever found – Summer? her parents? one of her friends? the FBI?

For a compelling and honest story about a real-life tragedy, I give this book two and a half stars. (I received this book for free from the author in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.)

Emily Rachelle is a homeschooled sophomore in love with Jesus and the world of words. You can read more book reviews, as well as poetry, opinions, and everyday chatter at her blog, Blog of a (Maybe) Teen Author.

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