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The Life Group

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  55 ratings  ·  35 reviews

"With THE LIFE GROUP, Maura Jortner saves us from the same old YA whodunit formula with a truly original storyline and taut pacing that pulls the reader relentlessly toward the devastating conclusion. THE LIFE GROUP’s topical details and themes are sure to resonate with thriller lovers of all ages, and the characters will stay
Paperback, First , 221 pages
Published January 9th 2017 by Lakewater Press
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Maura Jortner Sure!

Two events inspired me to write it.

First, one of my students mentioned being part of a life group. He said something about why he hadn’t done hi…more

Two events inspired me to write it.

First, one of my students mentioned being part of a life group. He said something about why he hadn’t done his homework–and it was completely innocent, some kind of charity work with his group–but it struck me as odd that people his own age had so much control over him. They could persuade him to do things and perhaps even lead him down a bad path.

The second event was of greater significance: one of my colleagues went missing. The vanished teacher wasn’t gone long—less than a week. And good news, she was fine—just mental illness showing its ugly head—but the events of those five days struck me to the core.

Later that semester, as I drove to the local daycare to pick up my children, thoughts of my colleague swirled through my head. I remembered the gnawing feeling I had–my stomach alternating between tight clenches and high-up flips. I recalled my heart thumping as I trotted down sketchy streets in the bad part of town, looking for my missing friend’s apartment. In my mind’s eye I again saw my colleague’s office key sitting on the side table as if she’d left it there, not knowing she would be abducted in the next moment. My children’s daycare in sight, I gripped the steering wheel tighter, and then it came–the entire plot of The Life Group. It bounced straight into my head.(less)

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 ·  55 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Lynda Dickson
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ages 15+
Shelves: young-adult
Ever since Leah went missing, her sister Rachel has been looking for answers. Leah was last seen at the Salvation Day church, but what was she doing there? During one of her visits to the church, Rachel meets Tim, who lost his brother Andrew in a car crash exactly one year ago. Tim has an appointment at 4.36pm, but he offers to help Rachel look for Leah until then. Throughout the course of the day, Rachel meets plenty of people who might have something to do with Leah's disappearance: the creepy ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I really liked this until about halfway through. It had lots of suspense; but then the main character figures that the kind-hearted guy who has been helping her to find her sister knows more than she thinks, and instead of running home (where cops are already waiting and her father is already worried sick about her), she takes off after him to be a hero or something. For me, after that, the book went downhill. My thanks to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for a copy of this book.
Alicia Huxtable
I found it hard to enjoy this book, and to be honest I'm not sure if it was one thing or a combination of things that didn't quite make it an enjoyable read for me. The storyline seemed like it would of been a good book. The characters, I found lacking though. As though the author had written them just going through the motions. ...more
Thomas Laycock
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a heart racing journey to be taken on by this great new YA author! The combination of the depth of the characters and the heart racing trip they take you on make this novel a great adventure! Such a great read!
Nancy Cronin
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Oh wow! What an exciting novel! It's hard to believe that this nail-biter is from a first-time-published author! Maura Jortner's The Life Group captivated my attention right away--both from the church's "message" ("They hunt our steps... our end is near." What does this mean?) to the initial YouTube video scene—Why were these items in the vehicle? Had the duct tape, surgical scissors, and rope been used to abduct Rachel's sister? Was the seemingly drunken girl who stumbled out of the bar actuall ...more
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Life Group by Maura Jortner, due out January next year, is a riveting novel with likable (and some not so likable) characters and a killer story line.

I’m not a fan of books in which the “F” word is constantly used – especially ones for teenagers, but the story was so enthralling, it seemed to slip into the background.

The YouTube video snippets appearing every so often in the narrative were a nice touch and kept you looking for clues and wracking your brain as to what the heck was going on.
Ray Landry
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Maura Jortner's "The Life Group" quickly comes to life as the protagonist, Rachel, frantically searches for Leah, her missing sister. However, this novel will never be mistaken for a typical "does she or does she not succeed in her desperate quest" thriller.

Carefully and effectively integrated into this basic narrative are such vital topics as family dynamics, ups and downs of friendships, and attitudes of exclusion that sometimes plague fundamentalism.

The surprises big and small in the last se
Dorothy Landry
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you are attracted to a mystery that weaves broken teenage characters' lives into mesmerizing and confusing cultish religious fundamentalism, you will be gripped by The Life Group. Maura Jortner skillfully creates a protagonist that takes the reader on a self-motivated and determined detective hunt for her missing sister. In this courageous process, she uncovers some of her own and others' deepest longings, fears, and unanswered needs. The human spirit is resilient and often a mystery that is ...more
Madeleine Beck
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! What a brilliant first! The Life Group is such a skillfully written novel that I was quickly taken in and found it difficult to take a break - I had to read one more sentence and one more paragraph.
Although it is. A fast moving narrative there is much depth in the plot and the characters. The family dynamics, the role of friendships in life and one girl's determination will give you much to think about.
I am sure that many readers will look forward to Maria's next work.
Grass monster
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasnt really sure what to expect from this book, I knew it involved a Church and after reading the blurb knew it also involved a missing girl and a massive search by her sister.
From the opening page I was hooked. Although listed as a YA read, I recommend anyone of any age to give it a go, you wont be disappointed.
Leah Dorsett, has gone missing. Leaving no trail but a last sighting at the local church and it seems the police have also given up, her sister Rachel takes it upon herself to try and
Kara Poe Alexander
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book by Maura Jortner was fantastic! I found it to be fast-paced, suspenseful, and smart. I didn't know anything about the plot before I read it, so I was guessing what was going on the whole time. It had me on the edge of my seat, as I was trying to figure how the characters, places, and mysteries fit together. The characters were well-developed and interesting. I also loved that the book was set in Waco, Texas. Overall, the book engrossed me from the beginning and captivated my interest t ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: won-or-blagged
The Life Group is a YA thriller. Like all good thrillers it's a proper page-turner and the pace keeps up right to the end.
Rachel, our narrator, has an authentic voice - she definitely feels like a real person, frantic and breathless one minute, angry and sarcastic the next. After a bit it's pretty obvious roughly where the story is going to end up, but by then you are invested in Rachel's quest for her missing sister and the story flies along to the end.
I was expecting something much more formul
Michelle Barry
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fast paced thriller that keeps you guessing until the end! Personally, my favorite element is the real and flawed relationship between the two sisters, and how that is delved into bit by bit throughout the novel. Rachel's struggle to find her sister, while still dealing with the realities of their relationship, and her guilt for acknowledging her sister's flaws, gives the book a real dose of gritty reality. Very well done! ...more
Ariel C
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Very fast paced suspense filled title!
The Life Group continuously keeps the reader guessing right up until the explosive climax in which all is revealed.

Rachel is a very feisty and realistic character, with a strong sense of duty and an iron willed determination to succeed where the police have failed in solving her sister's disappearance.
But not many of the characters in this book are that likable, it's hard to care what happens to them.
By the end of the book, it's difficult to muster up any d
John Williamson
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Maura Jortner, the author of The Life Group, does the one thing that writers of mystery/suspense thrillers must do, without which they fail: after hooking the reader, Jortner sets in motion a slow build-up of tension which never relents, never sags, and which ratchets up to an apex moment right at the point where most of the issues, or the key ones, are resolved. That’s a hard thing to do. And that’s the one thing that makes a book like this succeed. After all, readers don’t want a thriller to b ...more
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So, I finished reading this in just two days after starting, Maura Jortner’s debut Young Adult Thriller novel, The Life Group. While it was written for high school students, this book is great for any age over 14. The Life group kept me glued to every page until I finished the book, with only two questions running through my head, what will happen to Leah and if she will ever find her sister Rachel. Rachel, is this young woman who is actively searching for her sister, Leah, who went missing. She ...more
Ashley Havird
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The pastor grips and massages my shoulder. ‘Tim is one of our leaders at Salvation Day; he’s even in charge of a life group, so I hate to go, but I’m leaving you in good hands, and he knows everything that goes on here. I’m telling you, he’s the guy you need.’ The guy I need. This sentence, like the word guilty before it, spins in my brain.” --from THE LIFE GROUP

THE LIFE GROUP is the account of one frantic day in the life of teenaged Rachel, who, frustrated by the efforts of the police that hav
Marja Coons-Torn
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've been thinking hard about what to say about this book. It's unlike any other I've read, which overall is a good thing. First of all, it's set entirely on one day. The main character, Rachel, is an incredible young woman. I don't think I would have the courage to charge off and try to find my missing sister, especially after the police have given up. In some ways, Rachel seems a little cynical and hard-bitten for a high school student. But I think that's probably because she has this single-m ...more
Linda Buzard-Moffitt
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lakewater-press
This was a really good read. It definitely kept me turning pages to find out what happened to Leah. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I would have liked to hear more about Leah and what happened with/to her in the end. No Spoilers though, but I did really enjoy reading this psychological thriller. At no point during the book did I feel uninterested in what was going on and what Rachel and Tim were experiencing. Maura Jortner did a great job at keeping us guessing who did ...more
Julia Elizabeth
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Woah, what a delightfully tense page-turner! It's the kind of book you end up reading all in one sitting just to find out what happens next. I loved following Rachel as she pieces together the clues about her sister's possible abduction. And as a Waco native, I also relished all of the local details that made the setting pop, especially the climax over the River Brazos (I won't spoil it for you!). I highly recommend this one. ...more
Donna Murphy
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic, keeps-you-guessing edge-of-your-seat kind of thriller! I'm a huge fan of mystery books, so going into a new one I automatically start suspecting people and try to think how the story is going to unfold, and what possible twists could appear. So I love anytime a book is able to throw me off with a unique twist. But this book??? I never in a million years would have ever seen that coming! I loved it! ...more
Gina Jones
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this book for Christmas and started reading right away. The story sounded intriguing and as I read, I was not disappointed. I love a story that throws so many angles keeping you guessing until the end. This one nailed it.
Megan (Under the Book Cover)
Review also posted at:


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 s
Angel Hatfield
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rachel is at the door of the Salvation Day church. Rachel had met Ashley Newman a few days ago and Genna and some of the other girls. As the girls were to leave the church Rachel pulls open the door and you can tell Ashley and the others had hope to avoid Rachel. Ashley told Rachel she had told her the group was closed to visitors. Ashley also states that as soon as she accepts God’s plan for her sister Leah , the sooner she will find peace. Then Rachel saw some hair in one of the girl’s bible a ...more
Lou Grimm
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I was captured by this book from the very start! You know that feeling when you finish a book so good, that when you pick up the next one you just take a while to adjust? Well that did *not* happen when I picked up The Life Group. From page 1, it was so intriguing and so well-written I had to force myself to put it down to go to work.

Beautifully structured dialogue forms a large part of the narrative, making it flow naturally and feel real. I *lived* this story, completely forgetting I was
Sheila Clarke
Dec 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A teenage girl, Leah Dorsett, goes missing, and her sister Rachel sets off to find her. The police investigation has grown cold, and Rachel believes it is up to her to return Leah home safely to their family. The reader is propelled on a journey of searching for answers to unanswerable questions.
Ms. Jortner's first novel takes us along on an emotional ride providing many twists and turns on the road to discover the truth about this strange disappearance.
Themes of guilt,regret,and remorse are com
Stephanie (the nerdy princess)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

We meet Rachel, who, frustrated by the efforts of the police that have gone nowhere, takes the search for her older sister, Leah, missing for thirteen days, into her own hands.

An odd pastor of the odd church connects Leah with an older man, who seems pious and anxious to help Rachel. They drive around the city, and try to question friends who may know something. One clique of young women only say “It’s God’s pla
Laurie Bell
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOW, the pace of this story - the time frame of it occurring over the space of a day and the tension contained within the pages as Rachel discovers more and more about her sister and her new friend Tim is truly amazing.

I read it so fast because I didn't want to put it down (Nearly missed my train stop!) I have read many a good story but this is truly original.

Maura Jortner has done an excellent job in this debut book. Her characters are deep and layered. The responses genuine and heartbreaking.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining and twisting, Jortner’s masterpiece will have you muttering “what the hell!?” (In a good way!) with every turn of the page!
Sue Cronin
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kudos to first time author Maura Jortner! This book was a wonderful YA read. It kept me engaged with its thoughtful characters and their thrilling escapades, that kept my heart pounding. I found it to be insightful and thought provoking, creating a great read for all ages. Do not be mislead by the cover, which made me think it was going to be more religious. This goes beyond religion and shows characters with depth and compassion who are hurting and just trying to find peace after tragedy. It de ...more
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