Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

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I hate to ruin a buzz on a sophomore novel, but Leave No Trace wreaks of a really great idea strangled by a contrived plot of misremembered flashbacks, revived over and over again when it should’ve been DNR.

Ten years ago, Josiah and his son Lucas disappear into the wilderness, never to be heard from again. A manhunt revealed no clues to their whereabouts and their missing persons case grew cold. Years later, Lucas, now a young man, is captured while scrounging for supplies in an occupied home close to the Boundary Waters. He won’t speak to anyone except Maya, a young pink-haired speech therapist working at the Congdon Psychiatric Facility where Lucas is being held for further analysis.

If Mindy Mejia’s novel had been written through the perspective of Josiah and Lucas, I would have loved it. The several chapters we’re given in Josiah’s voice are beautiful, fantastic pieces of writing. His love story with Lucas’ mother is complex, heartening, emotional. His struggles are memorable and feel very real. Alas, we get roughly twenty pages from his perspective and all the rest is Maya.

Maya has gone through some seriously traumatic life events, no doubt. It takes way too long to get to her backstory, which is frustrating because it’s so good. She’s an interesting character with no real room to stretch and grow.

Her relationship with Lucas becomes complicated by attraction, but all he does throughout the novel is beat the crap out of her in mad attempts at escape. Honestly, this book should’ve been called “Maya Is Bleeding Again” for how often this woman breaks limbs, gets stabbed, kicked, choked, beaten, etc. She even gets in a car accident during a grand escape attempt. This girl can’t stay in one piece, but it NEVER ups the reader’s emotional investment into Maya. It doesn’t make her look like a strong, fierce female, because she can take a punch. In fact, it infuriated me that Lucas gets away with some pretty violent behaviors because he’s “of the wilderness.” He disappeared ten years ago, not fifty. Maya excuses his violence at every turn, while Dr. Mehta and her father stress restraint.

Overall, if you like a quick read and repetitive prison breaks, pick this one up at your local library.