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  • The Girl in the Park
  • Written by Mariah Fredericks
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On Sale: April 24, 2012
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89907-2
Published by : Schwartz & Wade RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called this YA mystery a "haunting psycological thriller" and "profound, provocative commentary on what it means to grow up in the age of Facebook."

When Wendy Geller's body is found in Central Park after the night of a rager, newspaper headlines scream,"Death in the Park: Party Girl Found Strangled." But shy Rain, once Wendy's best friend, knows there was more to Wendy than just "party girl." As she struggles to separate the friend she knew from the tangle of gossip and headlines, Rain becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder. Written in a voice at once immediate, riveting, and utterly convincing, Mariah Frederick's mystery brilliantly exposes the cracks in this exclusive New York City world and the teenagers that move within it.

Excerpt

DAY ONE

In my dream, everyone talks except me. It’s a party, and I’m surrounded by voices. I listen. I smile. I nod. No one is actually speaking to me. But still--I want to pretend I’m a part of it.

Faces spin by in a blur. More people now, and still more. They laugh, tease, point fingers. Their talk becomes a meteor shower of sound, the words coming too fast and hard to understand.

And maybe because I am silent, I’m the one who sees her. Wendy. She’s standing in a wide-open window. The city stretches vast and dark behind her. Her toes are poised on the sill, her fingertips just reach the edges. There is nothing to hold her as she stares into the crowded room.

All of a sudden, she wobbles. Her fingers lose their hold. Now it’s all balance. Her arms flail, a foot rises. I am too far away, I can’t reach her in time.

Stop! I yell. But it comes out an ugly blurted Op! People glance over, embarrassed, go back to their talk.

She’s falling! This is She alling! Someone giggles. Another girl tries to hide her smile.

Desperate, I scream, Someone help her! Thomeone elper!

Now the laughter starts. As everyone swings toward me, pointing and snickering, Wendy falls, but no one sees. I howl, No, no! as I feel my heart fall with her.

And someone’s knocking at the door.

I open my eyes, see my mom standing by my bed. Still dazed from the dream, I take in my purple quilt covered in stars, Sullivan the blue whale perched at the foot of my bed, the postcard mosaic on the opposite wall. Faces, because I like faces. Greta Garbo. Edith Piaf. Lucy from Peanuts.

I struggle up, croak, “Hey, Mom.”

“Rain, honey, I’m sorry to wake you.”

I look at the clock. 7:16. We’re visiting my grandmother today, but even so, this is way, way early for Sunday morning. Particularly when I’ve been to a party the night before. Which my mother knows. So what gives?

Blinking, I say, “It’s fine. What’s up?”

“Ms. Geller’s on the phone. She’s looking for Wendy.”

My mom looks at me. What is this?

I look back. I have no idea.



As we walk down the hall, my mom asks, “Was Wendy at the party last night?”

Wendy doesn’t miss parties. “Yeah, she was there.”

“I didn’t know she was still a close friend.”

I make a face like, I didn’t either.

Now we’re at the kitchen. I pick up the phone. “Hi, Ms. Geller.”

“Rain? I’m so sorry to call this early.” She’s talking fast, a little too loud. Scared, I think, but trying not to be.

“No problem at all. What can I do?”

“Well . . .” Big sigh, ends on a shaky laugh. Everything’s okay! “Wendy did not come home last night.”

Faces start flashing in my head. Snatches of conversation. Wendy surrounded by people, laughing--she’s always laughing.

I hear Ms. Geller say, “And, uh, I’m just hoping there’s a very rational explanation.” Again, the weird shaky laugh.

“Oh, absolutely,” I say.

“You were at Karina Burroughs’s party last night, right?”

“Yes. Wendy was there. I definitely saw her.”

“Was she . . . How do I ask this? Was she okay?”

Wendy using two hands to lift a gallon of vodka, sloshing it over a line of plastic cups. Party time!

“Um, it was a party. But when I saw her, she was fine.”

“When did you last see her? Can you remember?”

“I left early,” I apologize. “Before midnight. So probably I saw her at . . .”

Hey, Nico . . .

“Eleven? Eleven-thirty?” I say.

“And she was okay?”

I make agony eyes at my mom, and she squeezes my hand.

“She had had some alcohol,” I say carefully. “But she wasn’t over the edge or anything.”

“Anyone she was with? A boy?”

Come be with me, Nico.

I hate this. I don’t want to tell this woman things she doesn’t want to know. “She has lots of friends, Ms. Geller. Everybody likes Wendy.”

Even as I say this, I wonder why I’m saying it. Because it’s not true.

I finish lamely, “I’m sure she’s fine.”

“But there’s no one you can remember she might have stayed with?”

“Did you try Karina? Or Jenny Zalgat?”

“Oh, yes.” Ms. Geller’s voice turns chilly. “They couldn’t be bothered to come to the phone.”

Hung over, I think. Or protecting Wendy. No--protecting themselves.

I hesitate. There is one other name I could give Ms. Geller.

I blurt out, “Nico Phelps. You could call him.”

“Nico Phelps.” A pause. She’s writing it down. “You don’t have his number?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Okay.” Deep breath. “Okay. Thank you. This is--”

“You truly don’t need to thank me, Ms. Geller. I bet Wendy calls the second you hang up.”

“Probably.” She almost laughs this time, then says, “Actually, that’s another thing.”

“What?”

“I’ve tried calling her cell phone. There’s no answer.”

Wendy checking her cell, chucking it back in her bag. Somebody’s playing mommy again. As if she gives a crap.

“Sounds like she’s feeling a little defiant,” I joke.

“I hope,” says Ms. Geller. “I mean, that that’s . . .”

She stops herself. “Anyway, sweetie, thank you. When this is over, I want you to come to dinner. We’d love to see you. It’s been so long.”

“Yeah, same. And--”

“Yes?”

“Let me know. When it all works out.”

“I will.” And she hangs up.
Mariah Fredericks

About Mariah Fredericks

Mariah Fredericks - The Girl in the Park
MARIAH FREDERICKS is the author of the bestselling novel The True Meaning of Cleavage, which Meg Cabot called "laugh-out-loud funny and way twisted!" She is also the author of Head Games, Crunch Time, and the In the Cards series. 
Praise

Praise

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 20, 2012:
“Rain’s voice provides an authentic portrait of grief and powerlessness, while Fredericks (Crunch Time) offers profound, provocative commentary on what it means to grow up in the age of Facebook.”

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2012:
"[B]oth Rain and Wendy emerge as fully rounded, flawed characters that teens will recognize and connect with. A satisfying whodunit with enough clues and red herrings to keep mystery fans happy."

Booklist, April 1, 2012:
"Fredericks has constructed a taut, suspenseful mystery with convincing characters whose actions and motives propel the plot. Rain is an unusual, compelling protagonist, a watcher who must step reluctantly out of her comfort zone. Observant readers...will find as much satisfaction in observing Rain’s personal growth as in the solving of the intriguing mystery."

School Library Journal, May 2012:
"The story starts off slowly, gradually building to a surprise ending. Rather than a heavy-handed explanation of Rain’s cleft palate, details are sprinkled throughout the story, building readers’ understanding of her communication difficulties and readers’ compassion for her."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2012:
"The mystery unravels amidst a sensitive exploration of Rain’s coming to terms with her own quiet, demure personality, with its flaws and its advantages measured against Wendy’s extroversion and desire for recognition and love. The crime itself offers up multiple suspects before a triumphant resolution tinged with melancholy, a conclusion that highlights the fact that while growth is certainly possible, some people, unfortunately, never make it past the slights of high school."

VOYA, February 2012:
"As in her previous novels, Fredericks paints a perceptive picture of teens and their struggles with social pressures. Rain is an interesting protagonist to follow as she tries to overcome her own issues in order to defend her friend who can no longer speak for herself. Fredericks creates believable adult characters as well, which is too often not the case in teen novels. The very real mystery of the story is a riveting background for Rain’s self-struggle, and the plot twists make this a true page-turner. This book will find a ready audience in fans of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti who are looking for something a bit edgier."

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