The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Wylie and Cassie aren't exactly best friends anymore. Even though Wylie's mom has died recently in a car crash, and Wylie's anxiety has ratcheted up so much she hasn't left the house in three weeks, the once inseparable pair have barely talked in over a week. But when Wylie gets a pleading text from Cassie saying she needs help, Wylie knows she will be there for her friend. Along with Cassie's boyfriend, Jasper, Wylie summons the courage to leave the house and follow Cassie's odd texts and clues to find her. But it doesn't take long to realize that Cassie might be in serious trouble. Even worse, it seems like trying to find Cassie is going to put Wylie, Jasper, and their families in danger, too.
This was an odd book. I was expecting a "run into obstacles finding my troubled best friend, maybe learn a lesson along the way" Young Adult tale, but the book takes a turn about halfway through and the tale becomes one of psychological depth, focusing on the story of the "outliers." These "outliers" are those who have a special range of emotional intelligence that allow them to have an uncanny ability to read people, emotions, and situations. It's Wylie's father, a scientist, who has discovered them as an unintentional result of his latest study, and it seems like everyone wants a piece of them and what they might mean. So, suddenly, the book is no longer simply about friendship, but crazy Government and private contractor entities and other shadowy forces who are after Wylie's dad's work. We meet a whole host of characters, none of whom we can really trust, and things (at least for me) go a little bit downhill from there.
That's not to say that this isn't a good book. It's interesting and almost compulsively readable, even with the bizarre plot. I'd probably have enjoyed it even more if I'd just been mentally prepared for the plot turn, honestly. Wylie is a fairly intriguing and likable character, and I found myself getting rather invested in Jasper. The other characters, as I said, are set up as untrustworthy purely by the nature of the plot, but they are fascinating in their own way. The idea of the outliers is a compelling one, even if the danger behind it seems a little forced. It's also hard not knowing exactly who to trust or how much of the narrative to believe - it's so much it gets a little frustrating at time. Still, it's clear by the end that McCreight has set this up as a series, and I'll certainly be reading the next book. The one is an entertaining, quick read if nothing else.
I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss (thank you!); it is available for publication on 5/3/2016.
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