REVIEW: In the Blood by Lisa Unger

Title: In the Blood

Author: Lisa Unger

Publisher/Publication Date: Simon & Schuster, anticipated pub date Jan. 2014

In the Blood is my first real exposure to Lisa Unger. I’ve heard her name mentioned before and she’s very popular in our system, but I’d never gotten around to reading anything by her (or the other seven thousand authors my patrons tell me I need to read). In the Blood is the story of Lana Granger, a girl trying her very best to hide from the many secrets of her past. For the last few years, Lana has hidden herself away at Sacred Heart College in The Hollows, New York. She hopes to find anonymity and safety in the tiny and secluded school.

Nearing graduation and unsure of what to do with herself, Lana’s advisor and friend, Langdon, encourages her to find a part-time job to keep herself occupied. Enter Rachel Kahn, newly arrived to the area and looking for a nanny for her disturbed son Luke. Lana assumes that her own dark past makes her the ideal candidate to work with Luke, but the two may not be as good for each other as she hopes. Things begin to spiral out of control when Lana’s best friend Beck goes missing; the second friend of Lana’s to go missing since she’s been at school.

So, now on the actual review. I can definitely see why Unger has so many fans. The book alternates between Lana’s stories and diary entries from an unnamed female. It’s no spoiler to say that the placement of the diary entries definitely points to Rachel Kahn as the author. The back and forth of the narrative provides the reader with two very distinct storylines, but ones that are obviously closely tied. I enjoyed the way Unger broke up the story into these two different narratives because it keeps the reader on his/her toes while also increasing the suspense through the pauses in Lana’s personal story.

Lana is also one of my favorite kind of protagonist: flawed and honest about it. She’s a strong protagonist who has obviously overcome a significant amount of trauma and horror in her life. But she’s also honest about the toll these events have had on her. She struggles throughout the book to maintain any kind of evenness in the face of Beck’s disappearance and the increasingly disturbing behavior of Luke, some of which she is directly responsible for. Her internal turmoil and occasionally inappropriate behavior seems more than plausible and many of her flaws and mistakes are those that most people would probably make.

Overall, In the Blood is complex and suspenseful enough to keep a reader invested till the end, especially when combined with a healthy dose of sympathy for Lana. The twists and turns that Unger takes to get to the end of the novel are sometimes easy to spot but many will catch you off guard. The horror of the book is definitely psychological and lacks the bloody violence or overly sexual nature that many thrillers may depend on. I imagine this work will be as popular as Unger’s other thrillers.

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