Review: If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney

Title (year): If the Witness Lied (2009)

Genre: Thriller/Suspense

Other important themes: Grief, Loss of a parent, Coming of age, Siblings, Mystery

Age (sex) of main character: Told from POV of 3 siblings, all high-school aged, 1 brother and 2 sisters

Estimated age of intended audience: 13 and above

Wholesome/edgy/realistic?: Realistic and a little edgy – think “Party of Five” meets Dean Koontz

Narrative POV: Third person subjective, switching between three narrators

Writing quality: If you’ve read Cooney before, you know what her work is like. It’s more about the plot than the characters, but she develops everything so skillfully that the tension and taut pacing keep you racing through the book to the end.

Formulaic or surprising?: Pretty surprising. Several twists that I didn’t see coming.

Comfort food/challenging?: Definitely comfort food. I was on the edge of my seat with suspense, but the book wasn’t putting me through the wringer as some do.

Dark or Light? Endless struggle?: Somewhat in the middle. It’s a thriller so there is the darkness of death and violence and fear, but the characters are in the “real world” so they continue to have options and resources available to them. Dystopian misery, this is not.

Identify with: (people of color, disabled folks, respected elders, working class) Nothing much here, besides maybe children who have had their lives publicized by the media.

Read this if you liked… Any of Cooney’s earlier stuff. I first read The Face on the Milk Carton about ten years ago, and I go in waves of catching up on her prolific output (I can’t handle too much suspense at one time!). Breathe My Name by RA Nelson. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. Books by Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan, though Cooney’s books are more “thriller set in everyday life” than “serial killer killing off all my friends one by one on a deserted beach.”

Genre-bender? (recommended to ALL): I don’t normally read thrillers but I enjoy Cooney’s, in part because they arise more out of headlines than nightmares, which keeps them interesting for me. If you enjoy a good, fast-paced YA book, I say give this one a try even if this isn’t your usual genre.