I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summertime in Bleak Harbor means tourists, overpriced restaurants, and the Dragonfly Festival. One day before the much-awaited and equally chaotic celebration, Danny Peters, the youngest member of the family that founded the town five generations ago, disappears.
When Danny’s mother, Carey, and stepfather, Pete, receive a photo of their brilliant, autistic, and socially withdrawn son tied to a chair, they fear the worst. But there’s also more to the story. Someone is sending them ominous texts and emails filled with information no one else should have. Could the secrets they’ve kept hidden—even from one another—have led to Danny’s abduction?
As pressure from the kidnapper mounts, Carey and Pete must face their own ugly mistakes to find their son before he’s taken from them forever.
I was immediately drawn to this book by this cover -so moody, so mysterious. And the name – Bleak Harbor – is a tip off that maybe this coastal town has some secrets that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows. Perfect for that beginning of fall read, where summer is waning and the leaves are just starting to turn, and instead of beach reads, you want something a little darker.
At first, this book seems pretty straight forward – a boy goes missing, and his family is desperate to find him. But then, little by little, all these secrets spill out, there are twists and turns, all woven together so well that the reader never sees them coming. And you never feel like something just came out of left field – it all masterfully falls into place, and the reader is drawn to finish the book as fast as possible, just to see what the heck happens next! And the characters were perfect in that perfectly human way – not without flaws, this was not a glossy magazine type family despite that they are the descendants of the town founders, they had their own past and secrets too.
As a Michigander, I love that Gruley is a Detroit native and that the setting is a small town on the water in southwest Michigan. Everyone loves to find bits and pieces of places and things that they know and are familiar with in a story, and it was neat to see references dropped in to cities I have visited. I especially liked the addition of a Mexican restaurant named Xochilmilco – I am only guessing but perhaps a named for one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Detroit. I also liked how Gruley wrote Danny. He didn’t stick to a stereotyped version of someone who has autism, and in fact, addresses these stereotypes a few times within the book itself, and challenges the reader to change their perception of what they think autism is. I am not personally very familiar with the diagnosis, so I can’t speak to the accuracy of Gruley’s depiction, but I do like how he writes the character of Danny.
Overall, I loved this book. I found it exciting, and I couldn’t wait to see what would come next. It was chock full of mystery and surprise, and it was exactly the type of book I have been craving.