The Outliers (The Outliers #1) by Kimberly McCreight
Release Date: May 5, 2016
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages (9780062359094)
Source: ARC provided by publisher for an honest review
"Please, Wylie, I need your help." With these words, a desperate plea from a friend in need, Wylie Lang flees her home along with the beautiful but dangerous Jasper, in order to find her missing friend, Cassie. A series of clues leads the two on a wild chase, but Wylie senses that something is not quite right. Danger waits around every corner and it becomes clear there might be more to the story than a missing girl.
"Why are the bad things always so much easier to believe?"
What would you do if your friend went missing? This is the question presented to our heroine, Wylie Lang, who must overcome her crippling anxiety in order to save a friend in need. The Outliers is the first in a new series, and Kimberly McCreight's first YA novel. It is sold as your typical "missing girl" mystery, but there is much more complexity to the story, although this might not necessarily be a good thing. I don't typically read mysteries, but I wanted to give this new YA one a try. I was hooked from the beginning, even if this type of story has been told before, but my excitement waned somewhere towards the middle when the book starts to take a strange turn for the cray.
"But when you're worried about everything, eventually you are going to be right about something."
I don't typically read these types of stories, but books like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train are really popular right now and I wanted to have something new I could recommend to my customers, especially something that is age appropriate for teens. This story opens with our heroine, Wylie, who has dealt with anxiety all her life, a condition that is exacerbated by the recent death of her mother. One night, while having dinner with her scientist father and twin brother, her best friend's mother shows up at their house informing them that her daughter, Cassie, has gone missing. Wylie has had a recent falling out with Cassie due to her friend's sudden alcoholism and reckless behavior, but the two have a history and Wylie is immediately worried for the safety of her friend. In steps Cassie's boyfriend, Jasper, who secretly informs Wylie he has been contacted by Cassie for the two of them to leave the house and come find her. Wylie must quickly overcome her agoraphobia in order to step out into the world and track down her missing friend. Thus, our story begins.
"Tragic things sometimes happen to beautiful people."
I wanted to like this. I really did. Unfortunately, this being my first mystery of this type, I wasn't sold on the way McCreight plays the story out and am hesitant to read any more books similar to this if they are all as over the top as this one. I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, for example, wherein Doyle gives the reader just enough info to try to piece together the mystery themselves so you feel like you're on the journey along with the characters, and you get a sense of accomplishment at the end. However, if you think you know where The Outliers is going, I can say with absolute certainty your are wrong. There are just so many flaws and outlandish situations in The Outliers, particularly towards the second half of the book, where the story takes a total left turn. I was really expecting Wylie's mental illness to be a fantastic learning opportunity for the reader who doesn't understand the mind of someone dealing with anxiety, but this aspect of Wylie does not play out the way you think it would, deviating from reality and heading into the weird. The characters weren't completely unlikeable, Wylie and Jasper don't really get along so well since the only connection they have is Cassie, which is much more realistic than the insta-romance/friendship in most other YA novels. If you have finished this book, and this is not necessarily a spoiler, but you might know what I mean when I say the building up and focus of certain relationships proved to be a red herring in the worst sense of the word. The story flips back and forth between the past and present day, detailing the relationships between Wylie and her friends and family. This seems to mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, so I literally don't even understand the point. Everything about this was outlandish and just left me scratching my head.
The Outliers presents itself as a run-of-the-mill, "gone girl"-type mystery, and this is exactly what I was expecting going in. Seeing as I don't typically gravitate towards these types of stories, I was interested in giving this one a try. However, the drastic turn the story takes about 3/4 of the way through left me more than a little confused, I began questioning which genre of book I had even picked up. If you like mysteries that take you on a wacky and crazy ride through Unbelievable-ville, this will definitely be up your alley. I, however, was looking for something a little more grounded and have no interest in seeing how the rest of the series plays out.
Instead of The Outliers (The Outliers #1), you might want to try:
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Blue is for Nightmares (Blue is for Nightmares #1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz