hold tight Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they’d spy on their kids. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his best friend Spencer Hill, they can’t help but worry. Within days of installing a sophisticated spy program on Adam’s computer, they are jolted by a cryptic message from an unknown correspondent that shakes them to their core “just stay quiet and all safe.”

As if Mike Baye isn’t dealing with enough, he also learns that Lucas Loriman, the sweet kid who grew up next door, is in urgent need of a kidney transplant. As the boy’s doctor, Mike suddenly finds himself in possession of an explosive secret that threatens to rip the Loriman family apart at the seams.

Nearby, while browsing through an online memorial for Spencer, Betsy Hill discovers a surprising detail about the night of her son’s death. Before she can find out more, Adam disappears, taking the truth with him and sending shock waves through the neighborhood.

As the lives of these families collide in tragic, unexpected, and violent ways, long-hidden connection in their small suburb begin to work their way to the surface. And when an unidentified Jane Doe is beaten to death not far away, those connections threaten to turn this quiet community upside down—and force these desperate parents to decide whether there is any line they won’t cross to protect those they love most in the world.

My thoughts:

I picked this book up at the library for one of the on-line reading groups I’m a member of. This is the first Coben book I’ve read, but definitely won’t be the last.

One of the things we’ve talked about in our office this summer is that you never know what your neighbors are up to, whether it be affairs, picking up prostitutes, theft, who knows what. Hold Tight takes that idea to a whole new level. So many of the residents in this town have secrets or worries that they can’t share, but as the events unfold, all their lives intertwine. Coben keeps the suspense going and I was never sure what he was going to throw at his characters next. It kept me hooked, needing to see what would happen, how everything was going to come together in the end.

This book raises a lot of issues. When, if ever, is it right to spy on your kids? Should they have a right to privacy? What is normal teenage rebellion and what actions are purely dangerous? When and how do you intervene if suicidal signs appear? How much do you let kids know? How much do you/can you protect them from?

There are a bunch of characters in this book, so many that it was a little difficult for me to keep track of them, but they were each well-drawn and believable, thrown into situations they’ve lost control of. Some are good guys, some are bad, but for me, at least, most of them live in that middle gound. You make choices, some right some wrong, you just do the best you can, trying to protect the ones you love. It could happen to any of us.

There’s also a reading guide available at Penguin.com. This is a very discussable book, bringing up topics that I’m sure will resonate with many parents.