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Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield
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Hanging by a Thread

by Sophie Littlefield

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Teenage hormones meets murder mystery solved by clairvoyant clothier.

Hanging by a Thread was a super quick enjoyable read. It's the summer before Clare's junior year in high school and she and her mother just moved back to their home town because they can't afford to live in San Francisco any longer. There is something special about the women in Clare's family. They have a hereditary trait of clairvoyance passed down where they can see misdeeds people have done by touching the piece of clothing that person was wearing at the time. Clare has this ability but for the most part tries to ignore it.

I thought the choice of psychic ability was an interesting one. It gave the possibility for good tidbits of information and fit perfectly with the mystery solving aspect of the story.

Upon her return to her hometown, Clare has rekindled a childhood friendship with Rachel who is one of the popular girls. Rachel is helping Clare sell the items she creates from vintage clothing.

Imagine some of the crazy visions she must have had since all of the materials she world with are used.

Her summer seems to be going great until Clare meets and starts to fall for bad boy Jack, as well as finding a jacket that belonged to a young girl that is believed to have been murdered last year. Coincidentally, the missing girl Amanda used to be Jack's girlfriend. The jacket sends Clare into a fit of visions and she feels compelled to find out all she can.

The plot of Hanging by a Thread was simple and I liked it that way. There were a few purposeful misleads by the author that really worked. She did a great job of depicting teenagers and their crazy antics. The things they did as well as their behavior really rang true to me.

I also liked that she was able to include some family drama and teenage romance without these things overwhelming the main murder mystery plot of the story. I would definitely recommended Hanging by a Thread to my teenage kid sister. ( )
  Pabkins | Jun 24, 2014 |
NOTE: I received this title from Netgalley to review.

I just finished reading the book, and thought I should go ahead and write the review right away, while the story and characters are still fresh in my mind.

So, here's what I have to say: The story was original, as in I haven't read anything like it before. It was a unique concept, where the heroine had this special ability to read people's thoughts, memories etc. by simply touching their clothes. I thought that was pretty cool skill, though I confess it could turn cumbersome.

Anyway, I really liked the story, because it wasn't at all obvious. I mean, I had no idea what was going on until the very last moment. I also liked that it wasn't all that long, and it was a quick read.

What I didn't like was a couple of things:

1. This is a YA novel, and of course the topic of sex was not excluded. But the way it was written, like the main heroine (Clare) didn't at all care who her first time was with...... well, let me just say that I wouldn't want my daughter read such a book.

2. There were a bunch of times when the inner narration of Clare was so spontaneous and erratic, I had to wonder if certain scenes weren't just added to the book after it was finished. They sure sounded like patches stitched over a garment.

3. The closeness between Clare and Jack developed so fast, it seemed a bit overdone. I mean, there was time for their feelings to actually develop. Instead, they were just there for no reason.

Here's a bit about the characters:

*Clare is this sweet girl, who has a great talent with designing clothes. I honestly thing her style was weird, but hey, we all have our bugs. Sometimes she went way off topic in her head. Her reasoning sounded a bit naive at times, but I liked it that she didn't give up on figuring out the town's mystery.

*Jack, a.k.a. Mr. Bad Boy wasn't given time to actually develop as a character. Yeah, we see his angry side and his super sweet side, but umm.. it wasn't enough for me. I mean, Clare pretty much threw herself at him... but ... why?? Whatever reason did she have to do so? Yeah, he was cute and mysterious and all, but he was still a stranger.

*Rachel, Clare's best friend, was supposed to be this super responsible girl, that everyone loved and looked up to. But I didn't see anything responsible about her. She wasn't sweet, or reasonable. I mean, she got in lots of trouble for partying, and her membership in this very prestigious club depended on her good reputation, and still she didn't miss a party. She didn't miss getting drunk beyond any reason. I can say that I really didn't get to like her.

Anyway, I think that's all I have to say about this book. If you're curious about the story - go ahead and read it, I'm sure it won't disappoint. But if you're looking for a great book with extra complicated characters.. I'd recommend you go look somewhere else. ( )
  VanyaDrum | Jan 26, 2014 |
This was really a 2.5 but I rounded up because it reminds me of the Christopher Pike novels I loved in junior high.

Pros:
* Interesting paranormal angle
* Quirky grandma

Cons:
* Heavy use of brand names, paired with random decision to make up a brand called "Earl Dobby."
* Ending escalates quickly.
* Like, really quickly.

I was honestly surprised to find out that this novel was from an established author, though this was her first foray into YA. This really read like a Christopher Pike or Lois Duncan novel. It was all the plot points and turns you recognized. It was an entertaining read, though the writing was soft in places. ( )
  ErikaWasTaken | Sep 22, 2013 |
BY A THREAD is a grim little thing, for all that it’s got the usual trappings of a YA hit: quirky girl moves to new town, meets cute boy, solves murder while struggling to fit in.

Sounds like something you’ve read before, maybe? When I add that the cute boy, Jack, has a violent temper and a checkered past, does that sound familiar? I usually like bad boys, and Jack might not be so awful, but Clare’s attraction to him? Wow. Unhealthy. He runs hot and cold, alternately making passes and scoffing at her, but every rude comment makes Clare pant harder. She gets a vision of him vandalizing someone’s house and it turns her on. And she makes constant, horrible excuses for her own feelings: “Despite the powerful rage I’d sensed in his memories, I didn’t believe it could ever be directed at me.” Really? She’s known him a day and she’s already so sure? Poor fool.

As it turns out, Jack is one of the nicer characters in the book. Everyone here is so messed up, every relationship strained and unhappy. Clare has a miserable relationship with her uptight, controlling mother. She has a miserable relationship with her popular, unstable friend Rachel. She’s ashamed of her hippie grandmother, gobbling up her Nana’s affection while trying hard never to be seen with her in public.

It occurred to me, more than once, that maybe the problem was Clare. She’s got such a sour, unflattering view of the world. But as events unfurl and Clare uses her talent to dig into the secrets her friends and family have been keeping it becomes clear that Clare’s attitude is entirely justified. There’s a sordid tale in every garment, unraveling years of pent-up misery.

The mystery here is very good. The book opens with the central question – two years in a row, a local kid died mysteriously on July 4 – and with the holiday rolling around again, people are wondering who killed those kids, fearing a serial killer who will strike again. Clare finds a jacket that belongs to one of the victims and feels called to solve the case. The clues are neatly laid out, and following them leads to a plausible, chilling conclusion.

To give credit where credit is due, once I picked up BY A THREAD I could not put it down. It sucked me in. I had to find out if Clare would fall in line with Rachel’s popular-girl clique or find her own way, and what would happen with her and jerky Jack. I wanted to find out what happened to the dead kids. So I kept turning that pages, even after I’d come to the conclusion that I didn’t like any of these characters and didn’t want to spend any more time with them.

So three stars for a well-written book by an author who knows her craft. I’d read another book by her, but I wouldn’t pick it at random. I’d wait until the reviews come out and find one with more sympathetic characters. If such a thing exists.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ( )
  MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes

Cover Impressions: Not impressed with this particular cover. It appears that she is lying on a bloody comforter on a bed (is that what everyone else sees?). This never happens in the book. Clare spends page after page describing her wacky designs, but all I see pictured is a simple lace top and VERY traditional necklace. The pose is boring, the color is bland and there is nothing to make me pick this one up off the shelf.

The Gist: The town of Winston, California has been rocked by tragedy for each of the past two fourth of July weekends. After moving back to the town where she grew up, Clare is simply concerned with trying to fit in with the popular kids and maybe find some summer romance. She is also trying to hide the fact that a mysterious gift allows her glimpses into people's lives just by touching their clothing. When chance brings her into contact with the jacket of Amanda, the girl who died the previous July, Clare must decide what to do with the disturbing vision.

Review: This book did not work for me at all. In theory, it had good bones: the prodigal return, a mysterious power, a possible serial killer, a bad boy love interest - but when all those things came together in Hanging By A Thread they created a big pile of "Meh". It starts off with promise, but gets bogged down once Clare starts playing Nancy Drew and each and every character is compelled to spill their guts for not apparent reason.

The writing involves a great deal of Telling rather than Showing and tons of Info Dumping. LOTS of long paragraphs explaining how events went down. Seems like everyone in this town kept their secrets for two years and then all Clare has to do is ask a simple question and they break down and confess their life story. The plot was fairly predictable and eventually, I ended up skimming paragraphs because I was getting tired of being told things that I had already figured out. Had the author thrown out a shocking twist or two, I could have been brought back on board but instead I got the standard "rich parents bail out rich kids and someone decides that they should be punished" storyline. For most of the book, Clare runs around town asking questions and when we finally did get a touch of action it was only slightly more exciting and over all too quickly.

The characters were incredibly one-dimensional. Clare was boring and spent a considerable amount of time feeling resentful of her gift and arguing with herself about whether or not she should do anything about the information that she found. She blames a lot of her problems on her mother and, despite constantly reminding us that the woman needs to slow down/find friends/reconcile with her own mother, Clare's only contribution to making these things happen is to yell at her. The other female characters were pretty boring. Rachel and her friends all sort of blended together and seemed to only serve as a way to pile on information through gossip sessions. The males, on the other hand, were all really un-likable. Clare's dad is a deadbeat, the guys she hung out with were jerks who called her a tease and a slut, and even the love interest, Jack, was an anger fueled young man with control issues.

I did not buy the romance angle for one minute. In fact, it seemed pretty unhealthy to me. Clare spent the first moments of their relationship grilling him about his murdered ex-girlfriend (to which he responded with anger and hostility) then continued to suspect he was the killer while running off to be alone with him in deserted areas of town! As with the other characters, Jack spills his guts a little too quickly and then the pair act overly familiar for kids who just met and I really doubt the validity of their connection. Clare reveals her secret (which left me yelling "what the hell, you just met like three days ago") and Jack starts throwing out lines like "Clare - it's me. Tell me what you need." (which led to a lot of eye rolling).

I normally enjoy YA Mystery and I have heard good things about Sophie Littlefield, but Hanging by a Thread just fell flat for me. On to the next book.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Discussed, not described, kissing.
Violence: Fighting, Knifeplay
Inappropriate Language: Bitches, Shit, Jesus, God-Damn, Dick, Fuck, Slut, Pisses, Jerk, Hell, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking (and stealing of alcohol)

Unanswered Questions:

If the parents are so concerned about a serial killer, why are they letting their teens out of the house at all? It is called grounding folks (or if you want to be more PC about it - Family Game Night)

Having encountered/subdued a murderer, WHY DIDN'T YOU PHONE THE POLICE??? ( )
  ZabetReading | Mar 31, 2013 |
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When a third person in three years goes missing, presumed dead, July Fourth weekend in Winston, California, sixteen-year-old budding fashion designer Clare Knight uses her gift of seeing visions of people's pasts while touching their clothing to seek the truth, at risk of her own life.… (more)

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