Bestselling author Elizabeth George is back with the fourth installment of her young adult (YA) tale set on Whidbey Island. In “The Edge of the Light” the story of teenager Becca King continues. In previous books, Becca and her mother Laurel had fled their home in San Diego fearful they could be harmed by Jeff Corrie, Becca’s stepfather. A financial adviser, he had been bilking unsuspecting seniors of their savings. Corrie had implicated Becca in his underhanded scheme. Becca has a psychic talent, which allows her to hear random thoughts of others. She calls them “whispers.” On learning of her strange ability, Corrie had willfully exploited his stepdaughter in his thievery. Tension becomes unbearable when his equally culpable business partner disappears, possibly murdered.
Convinced Corrie will attempt to track them down, the two split up. Laurel had a good friend on Whidbey Island, Carol Quinn. Even though her arrival would be unexpected, Becca is sent to stay with Quinn, while Laurel travels farther north. Laurel knows her friend would care for her daughter. She had no way of knowing that Carol had died suddenly. So Becca is on her own, a young person with a secret in new surroundings. Steadied by her intelligence, composure and some good fortune, she encounters an assortment of decent people who befriend her. She has been there now for more than a year. Becca has enrolled in high school and has managed to keep her actual identity and the reason for her presence on Whidbey hidden for the most part. There has been no communication with her mother, and Becca is uncertain about her mother’s whereabouts.
George is best known for her popular mysteries featuring suave English Inspector Thomas Lynley and his more plebian colleague Sergeant Barbara Havers. A resident of Whidbey Island since 2005, George said in a 2012 interview that the island has “terrific atmosphere.” An indisputably accomplished writer, George admitted her venture into YA fiction proved to be “tough” even though teen characters had periodically shown up in her other mysteries. She found making teenagers central to a plot is different from including them as peripheral characters. In the four volumes tracing the lives of Becca and her friends, the author exhibits her seasoned command of great story telling, which enlivens these YA novels. Her deft style renders vivid portrayals of her characters young and old.
Becca has been staying in the rustic Whidbey home of kindly Ralph Darrow. Ralph is the aging patriarch of his family. He has suffered a stroke that leaves him physically debilitated and devoid of comprehensible speech. His beloved grandson Seth Darrow observes his grandfather’s arduous physical therapy routine, what had become a daily regimen at a rehab center on the island. Ralph has not been making much progress. The facility’s stern director makes it clear to Seth and his father, Rich Darrow, that old Ralph may need to be placed in a permanent nursing facility, a move Seth is convinced would make his grandfather utterly miserable. There has to be a palatable alternative, some way to bring Ralph back to his home in its serene setting.
Exactly what would be best for the disabled patriarch becomes an urgent topic sparking nasty internal family fireworks. Seth’s father and mother Amy are Whidbey artists who had eked out a modest, albeit satisfactory, living. Seth is a young man with carpentry skills who hopes to be able to make it professionally as a musician. Enter Aunt Brenda Sloan who lives in a different and far more affluent world than that of her artsy island kinfolk. She and her husband have plenty of money. They are people who are used to getting their way. Brenda won’t give any consideration to the possibility of Ralph’s return home. From her perspective, he needs full-time care and must go where he can get that. Seth suspects that she wants to seize his grandfather Ralph’s land. The intense family friction over this difficult matter is described with flair and grim realism.
Meanwhile Becca copes with her own formidable challenges. With guidance from elder Diana Kinsale, she is learning to master her psychic ability in more sophisticated ways. In the midst of all the tumult affecting the Darrow family, Becca’s boyfriend, Derric Mathieson, and her best friend, Jenn McDaniels, are both separately confronting deep personal issues of family and identity. And her own fragile arrangements are about to be rocked as the uncomfortable truths of Becca’s actual identity and how she came to be on Whidbey are bubbling to the surface. Back in San Diego, a hard-driving reporter has been digging deeply into the disappearance of Becca and her mother. How much time remains before her story is revealed in all its complexity? And where on Earth is her mother?
There are well-wrought subplots and sympathetic characters here. In the end this book does not come close to raveling all of the threads that abound regarding Becca and the others making their ways through life’s vicissitudes. Obviously a fifth installment will eventuate.
Book reviews appear regularly in our publication. Check out more articles from the full July 5 issue.
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