Reading Jessica Goodman’s 2020 debut, They Wish They Were Us was one of my YA thriller highlights last year! They’ll Never Catch Us is her newest, and for all those wondering if it delivers the same addictive mix of hold-your-breath suspense and delicious teenage drama — yes and yes!
Stella and Ellie Steckler are cross-country royalty and sisters but do not mistake them for friends. Oh, how these two fight. (I saw my sister and me reflected here. Don’t worry, we’re besties now.) Ellie is outgoing and always looking to hang with the popular crowd, while older sister Stella distrusts people with a vengeance. Still, these two have got each other’s backs when push comes to shove. And à propos shove, Stella may have a problem with physical violence, if the anger-management camp she had to attend over the summer is any indication.
For Stella, the last cross-country season ended with a police inquiry into the assault on a fellow runner and a hard fall from grace — Stella’s Georgetown scholarship is no more. The family’s hopes now rest squarely with junior Ellie. But after a toxic (and very secret) summer romance, Ellie’s emotional health is on the fritz. Not that anyone would know; Ellie’s good at keeping secrets. But when new girl (and super-fast runner) Mila Keene joins the uber-competitive cross-country team, it’s only a matter of time before something gives. After all, the scouts are only looking for the very best.
What’s to love about They’ll Never Catch Us is that Stella and Ellie both feel like actual people. We like them, we dislike them. They’ve got flaws. It’s complicated, right? Because we’re human. Goodman’s written some realistic teens here, and it’s refreshing to read. There’s lots of drama. Gossip Girl levels of drama. And aren’t we all here for that in a YA mystery? While the mystery unfolds at a leisurely pace (unlike the tempo at which these girls run * fan me, someone, please*), Goodman keeps readers hooked with the suspense of the unknown: we know something bad’s going to go down, but we don’t know when. So with each turn of the page, we expect the proverbial gun to go off.
Bonus: The underlying themes here are powerful: alcoholism and abandonment, feminism, abuse of authority, patriarchy and power.
“The world breaks little girls. It stomps out our will, our joy, our curiosity — and replaces them with disdain, cynicism, and the need to fit into neat and tiny boxes. I learned that young in kindergarten, when the other kids called Stella a show-off for raising her hand during class, or when the boys in first grade said I was bossy for leading a reading circle. When Stella and I would overhear the other moms at the Elite Youth Runners Club: ‘The Steckler sisters are just a little much’. That’s how we were described while the boys were sprinting around the playground kicking and screaming, breaking and biting. The world doesn’t celebrate girls who take up space, who demand to be heard, who are ‘just a little much.'”Jessica Goodman
Book: They’ll Never Catch Us
Publication Date: July 27th, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18
Penguin Teen kindly sent me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.