There’s lots of things to like about Elizabeth Klehfoth’s debut novel All the Beautiful Strangers. The story follows two timelines separated by a decade. In 2007 Grace Calloway, wife to Manhattan real estate mogul Alistair Calloway, has vanished without a trace. In 2017, Grace’s eldest daughter, Charlie, is in her final year at Knollwood Prep, a prestigious school where her father was once a revered student.
Charlie thinks she wants to be part of the only group that matters, the super secret A’s. But to become a part of that group is to participate in some extremely problematic initiation rituals. No matter: Knollwood is her life and the A’s offer an opportunity to belong in a way Charlie has never felt she has.
The thing is, Charlie is being chased by ghosts in the form of her mother’s mysterious disappearance. Then, she gets a message from her Uncle Hank, her mother’s brother.
I hadn’t seen Uncle Hank in years – since I was ten, and my father issued the restraining order.
No one besides Dr. Malby ever talked to me about my mother. But he wanted to know. What had that last month been like with her? Had she seemed different in any way? Who came and went at the house? How had things been between her and my father? And that night that she disappeared – what had I heard? What had I seen?
When Hank shows up with some photographs taken around the time his sister went missing, it sends Charlie back into her past, asking the questions she never knew to ask.
All the Beautiful Strangers is a layered story about family secrets, loyalties and the lengths people go to to protect those they love. Charlie is a tenacious, intelligent character who is determined, once and for all, to find out what happened to her mother. Although it’s not specifically YA, I think it would certainly appeal to patient YA readers. It makes for compelling reading, although at times it moved just a teensy bit too slowly. The two time lines are handled deftly, and the writing is terrific, so Klehfoth is definitely one to watch.