Kyra's life is going pretty well. A decent athlete, there are college scholarships on the horizon and a future to plan with her perfect boyfriend, Austin and her best friend, Cat. Sure, her Dad might be a bit full on but he and her mother love her. Still, like all teenagers, she sometimes argues with her dad and during one such argument she storms out of the car on a stretch of highway only to be overcome by a blinding light. She wakes, seemingly the next day, near a local gas station and makes her way home. Except that it's not the next day, it's five years later and while Kyra is unchanged from the day she left, with no memory of the time passed, the rest of her life is five years down the line and irrevocably altered.
Great premise, right? Sadly, The Taking never quite lives up to it's opening chapter. Kyra segues from vaguely sympathetic to irritatingly obtuse. On returning from her mysterious sojourn she seems disinclined to question where she has actually been. But that's OK, because no-one else seems that bothered either. Austin and Cat have moved on in ways that are ripe for exploration but that aspect of Kyra's story is largely ignored. Luckily for Kyra, Austin's younger brother Tyler steps manfully up to the boyfriend plate. And no one finds this insta-relationship either weird or unhealthy IN ANY WAY. Not even Tyler, from whom you'd expect some insecurities considering that Kyra was deeply in love with his brother not twenty-four hours ago (in her timeline, anyway). Clearly Kyra is moving on. Ah, the fickleness of youth.
Still, one would have thought that, considering Derting's excellent approach to parent-child relationships in previous books, the characterisation of Kyra's parents might hold water. But no. Kyra's mother feels happy leaving her to her own devices within days of her miraculous return, despite clear evidence that her daughter is suffering (at best) from severe amnesia, pausing only to state her hope that Kyra's might not sit around watching Judge Judy all day. BECAUSE NOW IS THE TIME TO PLAN YOUR FUTURE, YOUNG LADY. Never mind the fact that you have been missing for, oh, five years. Her mum also indulges in some eye-rolling regarding her ex-husband. Kyra's devoted Daddy, demonstrating just about the only rationality shown by any character, has become a UFO nut, believing that Kyra was abducted by aliens. The kicker is that Kyra (who has actual proof that her body HASN'T PHYSICALLY AGED IN FIVE YEARS and who has a sole memory of a blinding white light) also thinks that dear Daddy is nuts. Seriously, she doesn't even consider (whisper it) abduction as an option.
Additionally, you would think that a teenager appearing five years after she was last seen, perfectly well (and with memory loss, no less) would attract at least local press, yes? No. The distinct lack of a clamouring media circus beggars belief. But the press aren't the only professionals slacking on their day jobs - you can add the medical profession and the police to that particular count as well. Eventually, some Men-In-Black-X-Files types appear but it's all too little too late. While a book focusing on a possible abduction by aliens need not be burdened with exact realism, The Taking lacks, well, any.
The plot meanders about for the majority of the book, focusing largely on Kyra's re-integration to every day life (surprisingly dull) and her burgeoning relationship with Tyler. Tyler is by far the most likable character in the book despite the creepiness of his acting so instantly on the crush he's harboured for the missing girlfriend of his elder brother for the last five years. I mean, he really wastes no time, jumping straight in with romantic chalk paintings and general wooing. In other news, the story picks up in the last quarter with talk of tainted blood and conspiracies and shadowy government agencies but by that point it's increasingly hard to care.
What makes The Taking so infuriating is not just the waste of such a brilliant premise, but that Kimberley Derting is an accomplished writer. Her Body Finder series is quite brilliant, with highly believable characters, watertight plotting and a creep factor to keep you up at night. One can only hope that Derting returns to thrillers sometime soon (or to her equally well received dystopian foray) because this venture into Sci-Fi really hasn't worked out that well. Saying that, the ending of The Taking is an intriguing cliffhanger and perhaps the plot-holes seen in this book will be long forgotten by the time book two rolls in. Although not in these hills. Pick up the Body Finder (seriously, DO IT - our hugely positive review is here), try out The Pledge but here in The Mountains of Instead we'd give The Taking a miss. Sadly, not recommended.
This review was brought to you by Splendibird, who really wanted to like this book. The Taking is available now. Thank you to the publisher, via Edelweiss, for providing us with a copy of this title to review.