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by Holly Goddard Jones
Touchstone, February 2013
372 pages
ISBN: 1451683367

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Emily, from the wrong side of town and a misfit among her junior high school peers, suffers from bullying by her classmates but still fantasizes about romance with the rich, popular Christopher. She spends her afternoons alone in the safety of the woods behind her house. It is here that she discovers the body of a woman and decides to keep it as her own secret. Susanna, Emily's teacher and something of her protector, lives an unexciting life as a mother of a young child and wife of a band teacher who seems more interested in taking his band to the next championship than he is in his family. Her sister, Ronnie, who was always the wild one in the family, has gone missing. Wyatt is a pathetically lonely middle-aged factory worker who is mistreated by the younger workers at his factory. Tony is an ex-athlete who has moved back to town to become a police detective.

If I didn't live in a small town myself, I might have felt that the multiple connections between the characters were too coincidental, but Jones has really nailed the way that people play various roles in each other's lives in a small, isolated community. Characterization is the strength of this novel, with main characters and bit-players alike reaching out from the pages to tug at the readers' hearts. Jones brings the characters to life by providing them all with surfaces that they present to the world and hidden sides of themselves that struggle to emerge. The truth about what happened to Ronnie is exposed as the buried aspects of the characters' personalities reach the surface. The richness and depth that this brings to the book made Roma, Kentucky and the people who populate it a place that I was anxious to get back to whenever I had to set the book down to deal with my own life.

THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME is an exceptionally well-written debut. If the publicity about the book did not indicate that it was a debut, I would have been searching for Jones' previous novels to find out if her earlier books were as good. Instead, I'll be watching for future books and wondering if she can repeat the accomplishment of writing characters so well that I feel I could run into them in town.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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