Grades 5-10 (Thistledown, 2009)
A true mystery of my favourite sort, this story kept me guessing until the very last minute. Is Charlie Castle in fact dead and, if so, who killed him? To answer these questions, Jessica has to revisit the events of the summer her family moved from Victoria, the summer she played with Charlie and her other friends on Bone Tree Hill – the summer she contracted meningitis and about which she can remember very little.
But Jessica is haunted by dreams that are becoming rapidly more horrific as they begin to include details of Charlie’s rage, a bloodied shovel and Jessica looking down over Charlie’s lifeless body. She determines she has no choice but to return to Bone Tree Hill to discover for herself what role she played in Charlie’s disappearance.
Jessica is a skilfully layered character. Although she has possibly been responsible for the violent death of a friend, her unwavering commitment to uncovering the truth and to revealing frightening details about her past offer her depth and render her a sympathetic protagonist.
Butcher’s story is woven around Jessica’s hazy understanding of reality and it is this uncertainty that assures the mystery’s success. The clues are not hard facts to be uncovered but they are a turning over of events in Jessica’s mind as she struggles to make sense of them and to understand why her subconscious refuses to let her remember.
Return to Bone Tree Hill is a true page-turner and a highly recommended Young Adult read.