You Were Never Here by Kathleen Peacock

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship.
Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

New Brunswick’s Kathleen Peacock has written a book that has made people sit up and take notice. There are glowing reviews for it all over the Canadian literary scene, and having just finished it myself, I can’t say I disagree with them. Published by HarperTeen (an imprint of Harper Collins Canada), this may be marketed as a teen novel, but You Were Never Here is very much a mature reader’s novel too. It’s easy to forget at times that all the main characters are teens, aside from Cat’s Aunt Jet. You Were Never Here is part whodunnit, part thriller, part suspense, with a generous amount of identifiable characters set in a New Brunswick mill town whose glory days are past.

Cat (Mary Catherine Montgomery) has been sent back to Montgomery Falls for the summer by her father after an “incident” that happened in New York where she was living. Her father’s sister Aunt Jet lives in the Montgomery family’s old house, which she runs like a boarding house, to make ends meet. It is Cat’s ability to “see” – upon touch – what a person’s fear or desire is that gets her in trouble. However, it also compels her to keep her distance (and be distant) from people, to avoid accidental contact, for each contact leaves her with a migraine-like headache.

“This novel is more than a murder mystery. It’s about self-empowerment, acceptance, and the strength to be found in female friendships.”

School Library Journal

Cat’s best friend growing up was Riley Fraser, a boy with OCD who lived next door to the Montgomery residence. Upon Cat’s return to Montgomery Falls, she learns that he has been missing for some five years.

Due to Montogomery Falls’s diminutive size, and the mystery of Riley’s disappearance, Cat slowly gets drawn into the search for any clues as to his disappearance and the reasons why. Reluctant to use her special ability, she finds she must employ it at times to get answers from the people closest to Riley.

As I mentioned at the outset, You Were Never Here reads more like an adult work of fiction than a teen book, although it has a Nancy Drew kind of vibe to it: a teen girl curious to get answers notwithstanding the objections of adults, particularly her aunt who knows of Cat’s special ability. From a claustrophobic boarding house to the woods, to a wild teenage party, to an abandoned trailer, to creepy tunnels below the old textile mill, there is enough here for any fan of the thriller genre to keep the pages turning. A very impressive mature teen novel and one that is sure to entertain all who read it.

Kathleen Peacock spent most of her teen years writing short stories–all of which contained much angst and none of which survived high school. After working as a graphic designer, unofficial technical writer, and publicist, she returned to school to pursue an undergraduate degree. She lives in New Brunswick–just a few hours from the border with Maine–and is also the author of the Hemlock series. To read a recent interview with Kathleen, click here.

  • Hardcover : 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0063002515
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0063002517
  • Publisher : HarperTeen (Oct. 20 2020)

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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.