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They Never Came Back


They Never Came Back

Cathy Ferris is a hard-working student spending her vacation time in summer school to learn Latin. One day, while she’s eating lunch, a boy named Tommy is thrilled to see her and calls her Murielle. Murielle? Cathy explains that he’s mistaken. However, he insists she’s Murielle Lyman, his cousin who’s been missing for years.

Missing? This gets the attention of all the other students. Tommy’s aunt and uncle, Rory and Cade Lyman (interesting last name), were embezzlers who fled the country five years before. They knew they were going to be arrested for their illegal activity and just high-tailed it out of there. In doing so, they left behind their five-year-old daughter, Murielle, who’s been missing for almost as long.

It turns out the mother of one of the other summer school students went to prison for her tentative involvement with the Lymans. This student will do anything to have them brought to justice. Cathy, though, continues to remind everyone that she’s not Murielle. Tommy’s parents start sniffing Cathy out --- and then the FBI gets involved.

While the novel starts with Cathy, the following chapters take us into Murielle’s world. These are flashbacks starting with when her parents escaped the country. Chapters flip back and forth between Murielle and Cathy. Murielle is now 10, and the book shows her confusion of losing her parents and how they could have left without her. Does that mean they don’t love her or that they care about themselves more? Is money their ultimate love, not her? Or is their separation hurting them as much as it hurts her?

Along with building a mystery, THEY NEVER CAME BACK asks readers a number of questions about love, money and forgiveness. These topics are all left in an overall gray area. It’s never said what’s really right and what’s really wrong, letting readers experience the confusion of many situations. Even if Murielle’s parents hadn’t fled the country, would she really get to see them anyway, considering they’d be in prison? And the original plan called for her to go with them out of the country.

Although described by its publisher as a thriller, THEY NEVER CAME BACK is more of a mystery. Thrillers might imply murder and violence, none of which is present here. This book is about grappling with family matters, figuring out what really happened with Murielle and what, if anything, Cathy has to do with her. It ends in a way that lets it complete itself, but is also open enough for possible sequels.

Caroline B. Cooney has been writing young adult books for decades and has remained a popular author whose novels grab one’s attention. THEY NEVER CAME BACK is no exception. Fans of her earlier titles in all likelihood will grab this one as well, and even “reluctant readers” are often known to get into her stories. So what will happen to Cathy, Murielle and the Lymans in the end? As they say in Latin, fiat justitia ruat caelum: “let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

Reviewed by Danica Davidson on January 12, 2010

They Never Came Back
by Caroline B. Cooney

  • Publication Date: May 10, 2011
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Ember
  • ISBN-10: 0385738099
  • ISBN-13: 9780385738095