There are several keywords in a book blurb that quickly hooks me in, "Witness Protection" is one of them. Unfortunately, I found this book to be frustrating and dull, the love interest an obtrusive jerk, the mystery not engrossing, the ending too rushed, and the people involved too willing to go along without any explanation. Ultimately, there were too many flaws to keep me engrossed.
"Meg" and her family has been under Witness Protection for almost a year. Without any explanation from the federal agents or from her parents, she and her family have been in hiding and on the run six times in eight months, and she's pretty sick of it. At first, Meg tries to fit in at her new school, with her new identity, but by the sixth move, she is sick of it all. What's the point of trying when your identity and your friends will all get taken away without warning?
I felt the depiction of Meg's family dynamics as well as the individual personalities in her immediate family were well-done. Her frustration at all this is understandable; her entire family's behavior are believable. Meg's 11-year old sister "Mary" is slowly withdrawing into herself, becoming a shell of who she was. Her father is stressed out and stretched thin as a string, about to snap at any moment. Her mother gradually descends into alcoholism, turning from a casual drinker at parties to someone who spends the day in an alcohol-fueled stupor; even the people in Witness Protection knows she's too unsteady and unstable to hold a job by the time the sixth change rolls around. Their family is at the breaking point, and Meg really wants some answers. Nobody seems to want to give her any, and she is frustrated enough at this point to try to figure it out on her own, even if it places her entire family in danger.
Here is where things fell apart. Meg goes to her latest school, armed with a new identity, without knowing anything about her supposed previous town. By now, she knows the rules to keep to herself and not draw any attention, but the result of her standoffishness and her determination to figure out the truth at all cost makes her a rather unlikeable character. She keeps everyone at an arm's length by more or less antagonizing them, and of course, this would draw the attention of a too-inquisitive boy named Ethan.
The thing with trying to keep everyone away and being the bristly, antagonistic new girl in a town where everyone's known each other since kindergarten is that you attract other types of attention. Inevitably, someone will want to know why you're so difficult, and try to befriend you and unwittingly make you a project. This seems to be what Ethan has in mind. No matter what Meg does to try and push him away, he tries to draw her closer. He is everywhere she turns, their incidental meetings become so frequent it pushes the limits of credibility. He is curious about this new girl who tries to push everyone away, so he does everything he can to research Meg's past (a little creepy, no?). As such, his pushiness puts Meg in danger, even if Ethan is a decent guy (and he is) he still comes off unwittingly as a jerk to the reader who knows why Meg is so secretive. Ethan doesn't appear to be the brightest boy either...it never occurred to him that there's a reason why Meg is hiding all these things? Curiosity killed the cat. And guess who's willing to give it all up for that stupid cat?
“I see this often in girls your age who are in the program. They meet some boy and they’re ready to give it all up. You’re young. This will pass.”
I roll my eyes. I hate nothing more than a condescending adult.
It's not condescension if it's true, my dear Meg. You're ready to give it all up because Ethan made out with you.
The ending is very, very rushed, and the actions of those involved aren't too believable. People should be asking questions, not blindly doing everything Meg requests at the drop of a hat? It works out very well for Meg, but it is blatantly unbelievable realistically. The great mystery is too easily explained, everything falls into place too conveniently, and it wasn't a convincing or exciting book for me.