Author: J.R. Johansson
Genre: YA Mystery
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Summary from Goodreads:
A death sentence. A family torn apart. One girl’s hunt for the truth.
Seventeen-year-old Riley Beckett is no stranger to prison. Her father is a convicted serial killer on death row who has always maintained that he was falsely accused. Riley has never missed a single visit with her father. She wholeheartedly believes that he is innocent.
Then, a month before the execution date, Riley’s world is rocked when, in an attempt to help her move on, her father secretly confesses to her that he actually did carry out the murders.
He takes it back almost immediately, but she cannot forget what he’s told her. Determined to uncover the truth for her own sake, she discovers something that will forever change everything she’s believed about the family she loves.
The Row is an intriguing young adult mystery that takes a hard look at family and how certain situations can change you. I love mysteries, so this book sounded like a good fit for me, which it was. The story was very well written and engaging. We really get to know the main character, Riley, throughout the book - both the good and the bad. The author used the first person point of view to tell the tale, and if you read my reviews, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of that writing style. The reader forms a much deeper connection to the narrator, making it easier to identify with them. This was definitely the case with this novel, and I think it's a great fit for the story. Riley is an interesting main character and goes through a lot of really hard situations during the book. She's a very loving and devoted daughter, especially considering her father is on death row for murder. She fully believes that he's innocent - as he's said the entire time - until a rogue confession causes her entire universe to collapse around her. She can no longer completely trust her father - because now she knows for a fact that at least one thing he's told her is a lie. Riley can't get the idea out of her mind and sets out to discover the truth once and for all - for her own peace of mind.
The mystery that follows is a bit slow at first, but picks up speed the further into the book you go. I loved the twists and turns that are thrown into the plot - they keep you guessing for a really long time. But it's not just the mystery aspect of the story that I liked. The novel gives us an up close and personal look at the lives of a daughter and wife of a convicted serial killer. We learn their hardships and struggles - both in everyday life and having to do with the trial.
Riley's a brave and strong character, and she displays these traits multiple times. However, there was something about her character that bugged me. I can't exactly put my finger on what it was, but it stuck in my mind the entire time I read and put a bit of a damper on my experience. I think she comes across as a bit whiny and "woe is me" - even though she has every right to feel this way. It makes her sound weak, and she's continually trying to prove the opposite is true. Another thing that bothered me was the way she spoke - she sounded much more immature and younger than she was. I'm not sure if it was the vocabulary or just the way it's presented, but it bugged me. This is a great mix of mystery and contemporary fiction that fans of both genres will enjoy - definitely recommended!
J.R. Johansson's books have been published in a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. She lives in Utah with two sons, a wonderful husband, three cats, and a hot tub named Valentino.
She is represented by the stellar Kathleen Rushall of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Also available October 11th by the author, the paperback of CUT ME FREE!