Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aren't You The One Who..?
Frances A. Miller
1983, Fawcett Juniper

In this sequel to The Truth Trap, 16-year-old Matt McKendrick is living with the Ryders after convincing Mitch Ryder, a police detective, that he is innocent of the murder of his little sister. But there aren't any other suspects in the case, and the impression left on the public was that Matt killed deaf 7-year-old Katie. Which leaves Matt, who was attacked by an angry crowd in the previous book, anxious about meeting new people.

Every time he stuck his neck outside the Ryders' door, or got on a bus, or walked into a classroom, he was going to have to be ready for someone to say "Hey, aren't you the guy who killed a little girl and got away with it?"

This fear only intensifies when he visits Idaho, where he lived until his parents' death in a car accident months earlier, and discovers even his best friend since childhood, Gary, had assumed he'd murdered Katie. Betrayed, he wonders if he can really trust anyone to see him and disregard the newspaper stories.

Warring with this fear is his own impatient sense of duty and his natural friendliness. Jogging around the neighborhood, he runs into a vicious dog and finds himself arguing with the animal's careless owner over the hazzard it poses. And when he meets the Kennetts, he makes his first friends in Los Angeles. Like him, they're all athletes; Will's a runner, Meg rides, and Cary swims. When school starts and Matt has to cope with a few difficult people (including a coach who refuses to let Matt run on his track team), they're on his side. But the Kennetts have problems of their own. Their mother died only recently, and their father has withdrawn, leaving oldest sibling Meg to handle everything on her own. And on top of it all, their friend Don, who is limited by some sort of mental slowness with schoolwork but a natural with animals, is threatened with institutionalization by his foster parents. Matt, a natural defender of others, is outraged and joins Meg to help Don find a full-time job.

More insidiously, Matt's hard year has made him permanently aware that he can't take anything for granted. Not people's good impression and not the kindness of the Ryders, which he is achingly aware is not the same as the endless natural tolerance of a real family for a teenaged boy who speaks his mind. When Ryder, a temperamentally brusque man, is impatient with Matt's crusading zeal, the formerly headstrong teenager hesitates to push the issue, fearful of being thrown out if he angers the man too much.

Matt barely heard this apology. Mouth frozen around a half-formed sound, he stood paralyzed, seeing not the powerful police detective but a tired, generous man who had taken in a kid in trouble and given him everything he needed. Not because he had to, like a parent, but because he wanted to. He could stop wanting to...

And his own fear and desire to stay on Ryder's good side make him hate himself and distrust his own position in the household, leading to a misunderstanding that could prove catastrophic.

An involving novel which by its very nature is less overtly dramatic than The Truth Trap, but which deals believably with how the two main players in that drama, Matt and Ryder, might cope with the aftermath of the murders, the accusations, the assaults and the poisonous suspicions between them. It also introduces several characters who have also suffered a hard year, resisting the temptation to make Matt the saddest character ever.

Other books by the Author
The Truth Trap (1980)
Losers And Winners (1986)
Cutting Loose (1991)

Author Website

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