O's Top 20 Books to Read This Summer
The must-reads that'll take you straight through to Labor Day.
7 of 20
In Chancellor's hands even a well-worn plot trope—teenage girl gone missing—becomes something rich, strange, erotic. Set in Arizona's craggy red-rock country, this hypnotic debut probes the disappearance of 17-year-old Jess following her dalliance with an older, married man. Chancellor shifts nimbly between past and present and from character to character, cutting away the net of riddles that ensnares Sycamore's residents, many of whom went to high school together. Is Jess alive or dead? That unknown has frozen her mother in time, still haunting her—and the town—20 years later. The author grew up in the '80s, when photos of missing children proliferated on milk cartons and fliers. After her own mother read the manuscript, she immediately connected the plot to an actual abduction Chancellor can't recall, though the details must have been simmering in her subconscious. But what she certainly hasn't forgotten, and evokes vividly here, is the flush of first lust, in Jess's words, "as if someone had struck a match and lit her."