This book wasn’t even on my radar until my bookseller friend (Emily from Main Street Books in St. Charles, Missouri) asked O'Daniels and me if we would like to host the author, Meredith Tate, in our library. We never say no to an author visit (have I ever mentioned that your lit librarians are author stalkers???) and I couldn’t very well host an author without having read her work so I gave it a listen and boy am I glad I did. The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly is mystery, thriller, and #metoo and you are gonna love it.
Even though Autumn is super popular, she’s not very nice. She has sex with lots of guys. She does and deals drugs. She’s a bully to those who cross her. She seems to actively dislike her family, including her little sister, Ivy. So when she turns up missing, no one is worried. She probably just left home for a few days. Or, if she was abducted, she deserved it. She was asking for it. The one person convinced something is seriously wrong and Autumn needs help is Ivy. Ivy is not wrong. Ivy could not be more different from Autumn. She is sweet and surrounded by her super-fun and super-nerdy friends. When she tells them she needs their help finding Autumn, they don’t question it. They don’t consider whether Autumn is worthy of their help. Ivy needs them and they are there for her. Ivy doesn’t realize it, but Autumn herself is also helping Ivy in the search. Autumn is tied up and blindfolded in an unknown location after being abducted during a drug deal. She is having a sort-of out-of-body experience and is able to experience what’s going on back at home during her absence (just go with it; it’s a writing device and it totally works). Ivy follows the clues and finds out deep and dark family secrets which add up to a shocker of an ending.
The hook to this story is the mystery but the plotline that will stick with readers is the trauma Autumn experiences during her freshman year of high school. This trauma changes her completely
(a trauma reminiscent of the Brock Turner incident https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People_v._Turner). Her father and step-mother are so wrapped up in their own lives they don’t think it’s weird when Autumn chops off her beautiful hair? How about when she destroys her mattress and has slept on the floor ever since? Readers will rage.
After listening to this book, one of the next books I listened to was called The Five: the Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold. Her whole premise is that because these five women were on the streets, they were assumed to be prostitutes (they all weren’t) which not only directed the course of the failed investigation but (more importantly to Rubenhold’s purposes) put forth the notion that these women deserved what they got. I couldn’t help thinking of poor Autumn. She was judged harshly for her actions. Although some of her actions were justly judged (drug dealing - bad), those actions did not make her a bad person, unworthy of safety and life. How awful that some things never change.
I don’t want to leave this review on a negative note . . . the book is not without hope! Ivy is a breath of fresh air and her investigation gives her a whole new insight into her sister. She is able to put herself into Autumn’s shoes and it changes everything. We’ve got a lot to learn from Ivy. Highly recommended.