Book Review: The Life Group by Maura Jortner

by - 2:32:00 AM

Title: The Life Group
Author: Maura Jortner
Pages: 199
Genre: YA Contemporary/Thriller
Release Date: 09 January 2017

From Goodreads: "Every day since her sister vanished, Rachel has visited the radical church where Leah was last seen. There are still no suspects or leads, but Rachel’s positive clues lie in that church somewhere.

Thirteen days on from Leah’s disappearance, the pastor introduces Rachel to Tim, a devout worshiper of his Lord. To avoid dealing with his own demons, he agrees to spend the day helping Rachel search for her sister.

It’s Saturday, March 14. Maybe today will be the day. Maybe today Rachel will be reunited with Leah. Or maybe today will change Rachel’s life forever."

Thank you to Lakewater Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for review!

I went into this book fairly blind, knowing only that it involved a missing girl and a church. While I didn't know exactly what to expect from The Life Group, I certainly wasn't expecting a book that provided some serious thrills and chills from start to finish.

Rachel has been visiting the church where her missing sister, Leah, was last seen every day since she vanished. The radical church is a sure place to find some clues, Rachel just doesn't know where to look. When the pastor introduces Rachel to a devout member of the church named Tim, he agrees to spend the day helping her search for her missing sister. Rachel is holding out hope that today will be the day she finds answers, or is reunited with Leah, but can't even begin to think that this is the day that will change everything.

I spent a large portion of this book on the edge of my seat, suspecting everyone that Rachel came into contact with. This is very much a who-dun-it book that keeps you guessing from the very first page. The incredibly creepy opening sets the tone for the whole book and takes the idea of a thriller to an entirely new level. You're kept guessing and suspecting and wondering just what happened to this girl, and discovering that the truth is so much more awful than you could have guessed is a tough pill to swallow, metaphorically. Your mind can make a thousand guesses and the reveal is like getting the air knocked out of you. It was definitely something I was not expecting, and I found myself shocked and my jaw on the floor while reading the end. The Life Group pulls no punches and is incredibly raw and real in the most beautiful way. It's heartbreaking, shocking, and unlike anything in the YA genre.

Rachel was such a brave and bold character. She took numerous chances throughout the book in her search to find her sister, and I was amazed at how different she was. She's not your typical female main character, not by a long shot. She's loud and opinionated, strong in both her mind and body, as well as incredibly brave. Rachel never apologizes for being the way that she is, and I loved that about her. It's apparent that while the two sisters don't always get along, Leah means everything to Rachel, and you can see that in the actions and decisions that Rachel makes while she's out with Tim. She does things that she never thought she would do and even realizes that herself at one point. Being out with Tim, a complete stranger, and having the ability to confront people regarding Leah's disappearance really seems to bring out the best in Rachel. By the end, with everything that happens in her journey, you can't help but feel for her. I found myself wanting to give her a hug and, when the book was over, find out more about what happens afterwards. She's just a fantastically written, incredibly relatable and lovable character that you'll find yourself drawn into her story from start to finish.

The writing of this story was so easy to fall into and get lost in. There is an incredibly suspenseful atmosphere that is present on every page and you're never quite sure what's around the next corner. You end up suspecting everyone from the helpful church boy to the sketchy ex-boyfriend but you're never really sure why you're suspecting anyone. I loved feeling creeped out and almost like I was a detective trying to put together the clues that Rachel and Tim found. The dialogue between all of the characters was fantastically written and they all fit together very well. Also, the feeling that the church gave off was so eerie and foreboding and it really felt like it could be a character all on its own. There were so many things that were done right with this book and they all came together to create this thrilling, suspenseful, and quite possibly heartbreaking novel.

The Life Group is a fantastic debut that shouldn't be missed. If you're a fan of thrillers with fantastic characters and a plot that will have you flipping pages as fast as possible, then definitely pick this one up- you won't be disappointed!

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