The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate: Jacqueline Kelly
Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire: Brenda Ferber

If the Witness Lied: Caroline Cooney

Book: If the Witness Lied
Author: Caroline Cooney
Pages: 224
Age Range: 12 and up 

If the Witness LiedThis is book # 3 read for MotherReader's 2009 48 Hour Book Challenge. I spent 2 hours and 10 minutes reading it, and 25 minutes reviewing it.

Caroline Cooney's If the Witness Lied is a book with an excellent hook. I expected it to be suspenseful. I knew that it was set during a 24-hour period, and expected it to be fast-paced. What I didn't expect was that I would cry at the end. If the Witness Lied is everything that I expected, and more.

If the Witness Lied is the story of a family destroyed by a pair of tragedies. Jack's mother died because she was pregnant when she was diagnosed with liver cancer, and she chose protecting her unborn child, Jack's brother Tris, over chemotherapy. Two years later, Jack's father died in a freak accident, when toddler Tris released the parking brake on the family jeep, running his father over. His two teenage sisters soon escaped to other lives, unable to live with the baby brother who was responsible for the loss of both of their parents. Responsible second child Jack, now fifteen, spends his time protecting Tris. But on the day after what would have been their father's forty-first birthday, the family comes together again. And they begin to ask themselves: what if the witness to Tris's terrible misdeed lied?

If the Witness Lied is fast-paced and heartstring-tugging. You can easily imagine it as a TV movie or an afterschool special (like Clooney's earlier book, The Face on the Milk Carton). Jack is admirable, if almost too good to be true. Tris is as real as the come - an almost three-year-old who has tantrums, is easily diverted, and makes friends quickly. [He would make an excellent friend for Boots, my favorite character from Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander series). There are emotional moments along the way, as Jack and his two sisters remember their parents, and remember the ways that their dying mother asked them to take care of Tris. And there is the solving of a mystery.

This isn't a book where you flag a lot of lyrical passages. This is a book that you read in one sitting, because you have to know what happened during that accident, and what will happen to Jack, and to the helpless little boy Tris. This is a book where at least one person is evil, and others make mistakes. And a book where you may need to wipe away a tear or two at the end. I would have adored If the Witness Lied as a teenager, keeping it alongside my well-thumbed set of Lois Duncan mysteries. And I enjoyed it today. Highly recommended for middle school and high school suspense fans.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.