"After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, "perfect student" Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber's identity.
Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?"
NetGalley. Thanks for the copy.
We have seen them on the news and the television. Those kinds of things. The unspeakable acts. School shootings, mass murders at the church, bomb threats, those sort of horrifying things that never, ever, ever seem real until it happens to you. Are You Still There focuses on a bomb that doesn't go off; its maker is unknown and hunted by the police. The community is nervous and scared, and everyone wonders if or when the bomber will strike again.
The story starts off on that particular day. A bomb threat, and a serious one at that, is made, and a bomb is found. It is most certainly a stressful time for the main character, Gabriella, who is a star student and heading to wonderful places (meaning, good colleges and universities). As I said before, it is even more shocking that the bombmaker isn't found at all, making everyone suspicious and afraid. Whoever it is still walks through the halls of the main character's very school, and it could be anyone. Anyone. It makes for an incredibly compelling book that has so much potential and originality.
Gabriella has a lot on her plate, especially after the effects of the bomb threat. She has two love interests, but more importantly, she has a new job as a listener on the school's new helpline. Troubles unfold when Gabriella receives prank calls (pretending to be the bomber), strange calls (possibly from the actual bomber), and texts (asking "Are you still there?"). There are also calling cards from the supposed bomber, and slowly, she realizes that she is in way too deep. It becomes a chase to stop the next bombing.
The book is split into two parts. One is entries of the bomber's journal, and the other is Gabriella's POV and chapters (which usually appears before the bomber's entries). The entries are much more interesting and cryptic, and it provides many details about the bomber's life. Still, it is hard to determine the actual identity. He/she blends in too much, and I'm thrown by his/her name at the end of the book. I'm very disappointed by the number of red herrings and how the author took a simple way out. (There was so much buildup pointing to multiple characters.)
Overall, Are You Still There is a creepy and intriguing thriller that begs the readers to solve its mystery. It is fun and suspenseful to read, though the conclusion of the mystery remains unsatisfying. Gabriella is a stellar and good character, and the villain is thought-provoking.
Rating: Three out of Five