Today we have a special, double feature for you with both a review of S.R. Johannes' debut Untraceable and an interview with the author herself. We hope you enjoy it!
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Untraceable by S.R. Johannes
Release Date: November 23, 2011
Publisher: Coleman & Stott
About: 16 year old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.
When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.
One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.
Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.
My Review: Grace's father has been missing for months and she refuses to believe that he's dead. Using the survival skills that her father taught her, Grace spends all of her free time searching for clues, anything she can unearth that might lead her back to her father. The problem is, no believes her dad's alive and no matter what she says or finds in the forest, no one seems to want to help. All the evidence is there: he was on the water, he wasn't a great swimmer, he's been missing for way too long to have survived. So why can't Grace let it go? Why has everyone else accepted that he's dead and moved on?
I admired Grace's determination and love for her father. Even when it seemed that she'd never solve the mystery of what happened to her father, she didn't give up. Of course, her determination put her into harm's way more than once. When Grace stumbles across some guys who are definitely not of the friendly variety, she finds herself in more danger than she realized was lurking in the woods she's grown up loving. Grace gets lucky and is rescued by an incredibly charming and equally mysterious hottie, who goes by Mo.
Mo adds a new dimension to the story, one that I was never entirely sure I should trust. Which I loved. I thought the author did a fantastic job of ratcheting up the mystery and suspense in Untraceable. I was unable to fully relax, never truly knowing who was a good guy and who wasn't. Again, I loved this. Nothing was a dead giveaway, and everything hinged on Grace's ability to keep going, to keep her beliefs and trust her instincts.
The secondary characters in Untraceable were very well written. I adored Grace's ex-boyfriend and even with the new potential love interest in the story, I could never really forget about Wyn. On the surface, her mother appeared to be uncaring and the typical absentee parent of many YA novels lately, but it becomes clear later in the book that there's more to her story than you'd initially think. I mean, her husband, the man she was in love with and had a child with, is dead or missing. Shouldn't she be cut a little slack for not being the best mother of the year for a few months?
Grace is a likable, imperfect character that felt authentic throughout the novel. She made mistakes, she didn't describe herself as some tall, slender, beauty that everyone must have, and she has an undying love for her father. I felt her voice was consistent throughout and enjoyed her point of view.
Untraceable is thrilling and mysterious, the kind of book that will keep you guessing even after you've turned the last page. It's emotional and dangerous in all the right ways, with very little down time between the action once the danger really sets in. I enjoyed it from start to finish and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery. I'm also very pleased that this is a series and am super excited to get my hands on book two.
***Interview with S.R. Johannes***
BCM: Grace is a determined and loving daughter, never forgetting who her father was and never giving up on her search for him. Has Grace always been this strong of a character?
SRJ: I don’t think Grace ever had to be strong until now. But I’m sure that inner strength is just something she was born with. Her father gave her a good foundation and taught her so much so she wouldn’t be afraid.
I think deep inside her philosophy is like mine – just fake it til you make it. Only a select few of my friends ever see me break down. That is how Grace is. I think that’s why it is so painful when she finally does.
BCM: Secrets run wild in UNTRACEABLE. What's one secret you can share with us about yourself?
SRJ: I just realized how boring I am – thanks! Hm that is hard. I am not very good at keeping secrets. I’m the wife who blurts out every single thing to her hubby – what I had for breakfast, a passing thought, and random things – a lot of the time he has to say TMI!
I wear my heart on my sleeve and don’t really hold back – sometimes that is good and sometimes it is bad. But I pride myself on being honest and open. Maybe too open b/c I get burned a lot.
I honestly can’t think of a single secret I’ve kept – how sad is that? I need more to have more mystery as an author, don’t I?
I did get kicked off the cheerleading squad my senior year for drinking a beer. Not something I am proud of – but again. Do you know why we got in trouble? Because when we were asked – I was the only person on my squad who told the truth. See what I mean?
BCM: The cover for UNTRACEABLE is, I think, perfect for the setting of the novel. Was this the vision you had from the start for the cover?
SRJ: Yes. I talked about my cover story here and here. I saw the original image along time ago. Vania just brought it to life. I wanted to show wilderness, suspense, and a girl. Done!
BCM: What has your writing journey been like? What has been the best moment to date? (with your writing)
SRJ: Oh gosh. How long do you have * lays back on couch*. In a nutshell? 4 books have gone to acquisitions. 2 were when I was with my agent. I actually parted with my agent over this book. She didn’t believe in Untraceable as much as I did. My best moment was my Kirkus Review – it gave credibility to what I was doing and validating all the hard work and tough times I’ve had in this business.
BCM: Each new chapter in UNTRACEABLE has a new Survival Skill. Which one is your personal favorite?
SRJ: Wow that is a GREAT question!
I put the most important one at the beginning and end.
In the prologue it says: Nature will talk to you if you listen. I think we have forgotten this. We are so busy nowadays we forget to get in tune with nature and our surroundings.
In the epilogue it says” Life is short. Be sure to make your mark. I think it is important to think about how you want to change the world – in a big or small way. We get so busy with mundane meaningless chores; we forget we all have a purpose. That is the underlying message to this book.
BCM: If you could only read 5 books for the rest of your life, which books would they be?
SRJ: Oh brother. I always get stumped on these questions. I would say Fahrenheit 451,John Steinbeck’s’ Travels with Charley (my favorite book), Ian Fleming’s The spy who loved me, James Hall’s Gone Wild, and Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and teeth series. Wow I sound smart, don’t I? Don’t let that fool you.
BCM: Thank you so much for stopping by today, S.R. It's been a pleasure!