By Starlight by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
The night my best friend Gracie disappeared, I had a nightmare.
A monster loomed from the shadows around the campfire. I ran. The thing stretched after me…
I woke gasping, afraid it might somehow be true. Gracie could always make me feel better – but she didn’t respond to my email. Not that night; not ever.
That’s what lead to my summer camp counselor job here near Gracie’s home. Hiking and canoeing fill every moment but I don’t forget why I’m here. I’m going to find Gracie.
The camp-owner, a famous Native seer, isn’t any help. Her herbal healing and Spirit Bear talisman won’t help find Gracie.
There’s the local ranger and my campers, but will they believe me? I’m alone with this. Somehow, every step toward Gracie takes me nearer to something scary. This is a mystery I must solve.
If the police can’t solve the mystery of her friend’s disappearance, what chance does Kitsai have of doing it?
Kitsai intrigued me from the beginning. She wavered between acting much younger than her chronological age and understanding the mystery of what happened to her friend better than any of the adults around her. The mixture of maturity and immaturity kept my attention focused on this character even when I didn’t necessarily like her as an individual. She isn’t the kind of person who is easy to figure out. To me that’s a good thing to experience while getting to know the protagonist. A little uncertainty goes a long way in keeping my attention.
With that being said, Kitsai’s character flaws were too serious for this particular tale. She makes decisions that should have never been an option for someone in her occupation. Her lack of insight into why these choices were so potentially dangerous made it hard for me to believe that no one else noticed what was going on. The plot’s explanation for it was partially satisfying, but I would have preferred to see way more time spent exploring why she was so often left to her own devices and poor judgement.
The mystery itself was gripping and well-paced. As someone who once lived in British Columbia, it was eerie for me to pick up on the similarities between this piece of fiction and the real life missing person cases from that province that still remain unsolved. In no way it is necessary to know anything about those cases in order to enjoy this story, but I do think it will be a fun bonus for readers who are familiar with them.
It was never clear to me why the romantic subplot was included. There were so many other, more pressing matters for the characters involved in it to address that the romance felt out of place. This would have made good fodder for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one, but it wasn’t a good fit for this particular adventure.
Some people like to live without any modern conveniences when they go camping. Others are much more comfortable having at least occasional access to air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and the Internet. Seeing what happens when various characters get much more or less than they were expecting in these areas provided some much-needed levity in otherwise tense scenes. Including this minor conflict was a good idea.
There are paranormal elements in this book, but they don’t show up right away. The overall themes and tropes are much more heavily weighted toward what one generally expects to find in mysteries and young adult novels. This is the sort of thing I strongly prefer to know ahead of time when deciding what to read which is why I’m mentioning it in this review.
I’d recommend By Starlight to fans of the mystery and young adult genres alike.