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What Happened to Cass Mcbride?

Review

What Happened to Cass Mcbride?

Cass McBride is one of the A-list kids at her school. Known to her teachers as an "RP" (resume packer), Cass is involved in just about every important committee and event at her high school, just so she can impress college admissions personnel. A brilliant political schemer at the ripe old age of 17, Cass has been groomed for success by her father for as long as she can remember, and it's sure paid off.

That's why, when Cass is approached by dweeby David Kirby, who asks her out on a date, she has a hard time not laughing at him. But that wouldn't be politically advantageous --- she needs David's vote for Homecoming Queen, too --- so she politely dismisses him and then mocks him in a cruel note for her best friend. When that note lands in David's own hands, the ramifications for Cass are more than she ever could have imagined.

Shortly after Cass's rejection, David commits suicide --- and, when David's popular, guilt-ridden older brother Kyle discovers Cass's note, he blames Cass personally. Unhinged, angry and desperate for revenge, Kyle kidnaps Cass and buries her alive, keeping her breathing just long enough to mentally torture her for what she's done. Cass believes that if she can just find Kyle's hidden weaknesses, she can use her father's sales strategies to engineer her own salvation. But hours of intense conversation lead Cass to doubt her own abilities, to discover unpleasant truths not only about the Kirbys but also about herself: "In the dark, it's only you. No shiny reflective surfaces to dazzle, just black holes to stare into and see what you really are."

WHAT HAPPENED TO CASS McBRIDE? is an unsettling novel, in more ways than one. Narrated by three key characters --- Kyle, the detective investigating Cass's disappearance and Cass herself --- it reveals the background of Cass's kidnapping gradually. The narrations' chronologies overlap and intersect, leaving readers with no doubt about who committed the crime, but keeping them on the edge of their seats as they learn more about these characters and question whether Cass will ever emerge from her premature grave.

Unlike traditional mysteries, Giles's novel offers no easy answers for the many questions --- about the origins of suicide, parental expectations and motivations for revenge --- that it raises. Audiences will also, in most cases, have a hard time finding unqualified sympathy for either Kyle or Cass, making WHAT HAPPENED TO CASS McBRIDE? a complex, sophisticated suspense novel that will challenge readers' expectations while still keeping them up late at night.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 1, 2006

What Happened to Cass Mcbride?
by Gail Giles

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2006
  • Genres: Psychological Thriller
  • Hardcover: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316166383
  • ISBN-13: 9780316166386