Book Review: Untraceable
ashley | I grew up in the country surrounded by trees, but if you threw me in the middle of the woods, there is no way I would be able to find my way out, let alone survive. But Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and the wilderness. She knows how to survive out there and that’s something I greatly admire and what initially attracted me to Untraceable by S.R. Johannes. There are really strong ties to nature and preservation of wildlife, something I haven’t read a whole lot about and was really happy to.
I liked Grace immediately. I loved how comfortable she was in the woods and how easily she could read everything around her. She was self-sufficient and smart witted and seemed far more mature than her sixteen years. Even when she acted like a teenager – arguing with her mother or being difficult with her therapist – it wasn’t in an annoying, bratty way. Her defiance was well placed and she didn’t seem out of line or whiny. And her chemistry with Wyn was strong. I enjoyed their witty back and forth banter and she seemed to have a pretty solid understanding of their intertwined dynamic, which was comforting to read.
As Grace refuses to give up on her father’s closed case, we learn more about the town and the wildlife, specifically the bears, that she and her father make a life mission to protect. This was a very powerful and moving part of the book, some of the horrifically true details that were explained about bear poaching were so disturbing and sad. I didn’t really expect to have such a reaction to a book that seemed otherwise lighthearted. It’s almost like a PSA in the middle of a fiction book.
Sadly, the Veronica Mars case-solving feel faded quickly once you got past the beginning and the YA romance that is all too common took its place. The body of the story sees Grace mingling with mysterious Mo, the boy she meets in the woods. I was a little hesitant to accept this. I liked what was presented and Mo is an important player in the book, but their affections seemed to happen pretty quickly, something stronger than just lust and attraction and it seemed a little fast for me. Not to mention it was a huge distraction from Grace looking for her father and completely overshadowed those interesting plot points. It also created a love triangle that I wasn’t exactly fond of either, even though both suitors were good and interesting characters.
Overall, I really liked Johannes’ written voice. The story flowed well, I liked a lot of the phrasing and the descriptions weren’t overdone, but were still vivid. She painted a real strong image of the forest and it pretty much reached right off the pages of the book.
I just wish there was a little less swooniness in the middle and instead of cuddling under the romantic blanket of stars for a good portion of the book, Mo was more proactive in helping Grace figure out what she was looking for from the start. Don’t get me wrong, it was a welcomed touch, but I think it went on a bit too long and took away from the flow of the rest of the story.
Maybe I’m just (finally) outgrowing the YA romance genre, but I’m growing tired of the typical YA relationships that form out of nowhere and overtake a book, which is a shame because there were a lot of interesting nature and survival elements to this book and the mystery of the missing father as well as the mysterious Mo would have made it a great read if it wasn’t completely overshadowed.