Goodreads summary: Sadie Lester has been dumped with relatives for the summer. Boredom seems inevitable in her small Minnesota town until she meets Allie—a spiky-haired off-road biker with incredible grace and speed. Training for the upcoming bike race, Allie leads Sadie and cute fellow cyclist Joe up and down Mount Kato—an exhilarating rush that pushes their limits. The fun ends abruptly when they stray off the trail and find a priest, badly beaten and near death. After calling for help, Allie mysteriously disappears from their lives.
Just like the trash littering the beautiful river bluffs, there's something foul afoot. Creepy rednecks are prowling the woods, the same ones who ran Sadie and Allie off the road one night. It's not until the day of the big race that Sadie finally learns the startling truth about Allie, her connection to the priest, and what drove her into hiding.
I have never gone mountain biking.
I haven't walked through the MN woods in many years.
I have never been to Mankato, MN.
Although I'm from MN, I'm a city dweller and will likely remain so for the rest of my years.
And yet, reading Chasing AllieCat, all of the scents, sounds, and sights associated with the woods and small town MN made me feel very much at home. I'd like to say that it brought back childhood memories, but alas, it wasn't even that. I grew up near a lake in central MN (several different lakes actually as we moved multiple times), and my childhood experiences really weren't the same as these characters'. I'm not sure how to explain why this book gave me the feeling of coming home, but it did. Does that mean you have to be from MN or from a small town to enjoy this book? Absolutely not. But, I think that it did enhance the experience for me.
What I loved most about this book was the way it captured those rare magical moments where you meet someone and you just "click". A few simple words, and it's as though you've been friends forever. That's the kind of friendship that occurs between Sadie and Allie. It's special, and it's the whole theme of the book and something that I think a lot of us (teens especially) can relate to. The characters were well done, and Sadie's LI, Joe, was a "real" guy, which was refreshing.
As for the plot itself, it starts off kind of slow. We're shown hints of something being "off" with Allie, but are left guessing what it is. We're also given hints of impending danger, like Allie and Sadie almost getting run off the road while biking and Sadie's dog going psycho around some strangers. It all kind of builds until the middle of the book when the friends find a body at the bottom of a ravine and then Allie suddenly disappears. Those parts of the story were wonderfully crafted and held my interest. I was eager to figure out what was going on and why Allie was connected to body and why she had disappeared and why everyone was lying to Sadie. I was caught up in the story at that point. And then... something changed.
To tell you where the story went from there would be a too much of a spoiler, but I will say that it wasn't delivered with as much finesse as I thought it could have been. In essence, it felt... dramatic, but in a soap opera sort of way rather than in a tear-jerker sort of way. Parts of it felt contrived, and the antagonist's actions didn't follow any sort of logic. Then again, I suppose I'm not the type of person who would do what the antagonist did, so maybe I don't know how they would behave.
So although the ending niggled with me a little bit, I still enjoyed the story overall. I loved the characters, the setting and learning about mountain biking made me feel like I should get off my rump and hop on a two wheeler! Haha... just kidding... I think.
Chasing AllieCat is Rebecca Fjelland Davis's second YA novel, though she also has several children's books published. CA has been named a Junior Library Guild selection for 2011. You can visit her blog here.
You can purchase Chasing AllieCat from Amazon.
Or Barnes and Noble.