IN THE BLOODWhat makes Lana Granger, the protagonist and narrator of Lisa Unger’s IN THE BLOOD, so compelling that readers will be hard pressed to look away from the page for even a second?

We all have secrets, and we all lie.

Lana’s secrets and lies are deeper and darker than some of ours, perhaps, but it is this core true connection that makes IN THE BLOOD a powerful story, one that will affect you deeply.

Lana is young–she’s in college–but her life is full of complexities that make her immediately fascinating. Her mother died when she was a child, and her best friend and roommate has gone missing. She’s taken a job as a minder for a kid who might–or might not–have an evil heart. And that’s just the beginning.

To call this book a psychological thriller does it something of a disservice because it is much more. As I looked over my favorite books read in 2013, I found that while the list is quite varied, they all share one feature, and none more so than IN THE BLOOD: asking questions, often big, thought-provoking questions, without having to answer them conclusively. IN THE BLOOD is narrated by Lana, but Lisa Unger is a master of showing her readers different perspectives, and each of the characters in IN THE BLOOD brings his or her own view to the events as they unfold.

Speaking of those events, all the reviews I’ve read mention the shocking twists and turns in the story, and there is certainly no shortage of gasp-worthy moments. But the joy in reading this book for me was not in the surprises, but rather in expanding my expectations of how I thought people might behave when confronted with enormous, profound events, ones that often start with something quite small.

Memory also factors into this story, in unexpected ways. The relationship between parents and children is explored through multiple perspectives, too, and different aspects of these, the most complex relationships any of us have, will stand out to different readers. For me, it was the illustration of how kids, even as adults, rarely see parents as actual people.

IN THE BLOOD is a stand-alone story, although if you’ve read Lisa Unger’s books before, you’ll be happy to see Maggie and Jones Cooper making appearances in this one set in the fictional town of The Hollows, which has become, through Lisa’s stories, so real to me that reading about it is like visiting a place I know intimately.

This time next year, as we’re trolling through the multitude of lists of the best books published in 2014, I promise that IN THE BLOOD will be on every such list worth its salt. If you’re a re-reader, this is one you’ll want to read more than once, because you’ll definitely miss something the first time simply because there’s so much here (I know I did).

I recommend Lisa Unger’s books frequently and often with abandon, and IN THE BLOOD represents a milestone in an exceptional storytelling career, one that you mustn’t miss.


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