Murder, abuse, alienation, and tragedy galore. If all small towns are like the one in Jones’ breakout novel, remind me to never live in one! Emily Houchens is an odd, sad 13 year old girl. Somewhat of an outcast, she spends much of her time fantasizing about friendships and a relationship with her school crush. She keeps to herself, and is prone to long, meandering walks through the woods bordering her small town. One day, while on a ramble through the woods, Emily stumbles upon the dead body of a woman. For most little girls, the obvious reaction would be to run home and immediately tell someone about the dead body in the woods – but Emily is not most girls. Captivated by the body, she keeps it a secret, and returns to it multiple times to observe its slow decay.
The story winds its way through the lives of numerous people inhabiting the small town of Roma, from Emily to the missing girl herself. The story isn’t meant to be much of a mystery, but rather a portrait of the struggles and strife people must endure. If anything, the story is just depressing and sad – but in a good way, if that’s even possible. The Next Time You See Me held my attention from start to finish – and I often couldn’t wait to get back to it, even though I knew it wasn’t going to take me to a happy place. Would it have killed the author, though, to have given at least one character a happy story? I mean, not everyone living in a small town lives these miserable little lives do they? Or are they just the ones worth writing about?
No bad for a first novel, Ms. Jones.
Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.