In brief: Frankie and Jack meet again unexpectedly as adults, bringing up memories of their teenage years and the night Kate disappeared. The memories start to affect both their lives…
The good: Gripping as it is gradually revealed what happened to Kate and as things fall apart for Frankie and Jack.
The not-so-good: There are a lot of obstacles in Frankie’s path to happiness.
Why I chose it: Liked the cover and invited to read by Random House Australia (thanks for the eARC!)
Pages: 368 (eARC)
Publisher: Random House Australia (Bantam Australia)
Setting: Queensland, Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
Losing Kate. From the title, you may think that this book is a sad story, full of despair at someone losing the person they loved. While there are sad elements to this story, it is ultimately a tale of trust, hope and love told in a suspenseful way. It’s also a book that will conjure fond memories for teenagers of the late 1990s/early 2000s (especially Australian ones) with its references to pop culture. (Kaden gets super bonus points from me for not only several references to Aussie band Powderfinger, but a scene at one of their concerts).
The book opens as our protagonist Francesca (known as Frankie/Fray) is watching an auction for the land behind her small, dilapidated cottage in Brisbane’s suburbs. The last thing she expected to see was her best friend growing up, Jack. They haven’t seen each other since Kate went missing and Jack’s family moved away amidst the furore. As soon as Frankie and Jack meet, you can feel the history crackle between them, as well as something more – things left unsaid. The tension that’s set up here only increases from here on in – it’s as muggy as a Brisbane summer day. From this point, I was hooked to find out what the history is between Jack and Frankie. There was so much left unsaid, and I just knew it was going to be a good story.
Their reunion is interrupted by Sara, Jack’s partner. Sara is a Class I, Grade A Horrible Person. She’s bitchy, looks down on Frankie and plays Jack for his affection and sense of responsibility to their son, Oli. Kaden has created a fantastic character in Sara as she raised my ire as soon as she appeared on the page. I felt a strong dislike to her – she’s horrible just for the sake of it, aiming to put down Frankie at any opportunity. But like all nasty characters, does she get her comeuppance? Well, you’ll just have to read and see.
After Jack and Frankie meet again, the book goes into the past to their school days. This is where Kate comes in. We read about how she and Frankie became friends and Jack Kate’s boyfriend. The narrative then shifts to the disappearance of Kate from their Leavers’ (finishing high school) celebrations, camping in on an island. Interspersed between these chapters is the present day, where Frankie is becoming increasingly agitated about why Kate disappeared and her growing feelings for Jack. I think this was my favourite section of the book, as Frankie is becoming increasingly confused about everything. She’s concerned that there’s more than she knows about Kate going missing – is Jack the key? Why did she break up with her fiancé? Why doesn’t she enjoy her job anymore? It’s like she’s having a (slightly late) quarter life crisis. Nothing seems clear. I found Frankie’s sense of dissatisfaction very real and her search for the truth a compelling read.
It’s hard to believe that this is Kylie Kaden’s first book. It’s well paced, action packed and the characters are easy to relate to (or dislike, in my case with Sara). The suspense is tantalisingly crafted, speeding up towards the end as we find out what really happened with Kate. My only criticism is that the to and fro between Frankie and Jack, the ‘will they won’t they’ teased a little too long for me (I may have asked my Kindle, “ARE YOU TWO EVER GETTING IT ON?”). But all in all, this was a fantastic book that held my interest from the very first page. Kudos also goes to the cover designer – that girl is definitely Kate. If you like your mysteries and sexual tension sultry and well crafted, Losing Kate is a book you should read.