The teen years are supposed to be spent finding one’s identity, but 14-year-old Hannah Armstrong has a new identity thrust upon her in the first chapter of Elizabeth George’s young adult novel “The Edge of Nowhere,” due out Sept. 4.
George describes the novel as “part mystery and part romance, with some paranormal activity thrown in.”
As the novel opens, Hannah and her mother have left California and are going into hiding to escape her malevolent stepfather. Armed with a complex plan, which includes giving Hannah a new name — Becca King — and a new life story, Becca will live on Whidbey Island for a few months with her mother’s friend Carol in Langley. Meanwhile her mother will go to British Columbia to start a new life as well.
Here’s how Whidbey looks to Becca from the Mukilteo ferry landing:
“From where they were parked, Whidbey was nothing more than an enormous hulk surmounted by tall conifers and having a band of lights at the bottom where a few houses were strung along the shore. To Becca, with an entire life lived in San Diego, the place looked forbidding and foreign. She couldn’t imagine herself there, trying to establish a new life far away from her stepfather’s reach.”
“It seems like the edge of nowhere to a California city girl,” said George.
“Becca and her mom Laurel leave California because her stepfather wanted to use Becca’s strange ability to ‘hear’ other people’s thoughts for criminal business activity,” said George. “She hears ‘whispers’ of people’s thoughts, but she can’t control it. Most of the time it’s like listening to a poorly tuned radio.”
The escape plan goes awry “almost immediately,” said George. “Becca is faced with immediate challenges on all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — food, shelter, clothing, security, self-esteem, the need to belong.”
It’s hard for Becca to know whom to trust as she explores her new environs. She meets two boys who figure prominently in the mystery part of the book, an 18-year-old learning-disabled boy named Seth, and Derrick, a Ugandan orphan adopted by a Langley family. She also meets Hayley, “a girl who is coming to terms with a hidden family crisis.”
Three of the book’s characters have a point of view in the telling of the story, a literary device George uses often in her books.
“I always create the characters in advance of writing the story and write lengthy outlines for each one,” said George. “It’s part of the delicate dance I do as a writer that allows me to shape the story in such a way that it all hangs together for the reader.”
Experienced readers of George’s acclaimed Inspector Lynley mysteries know they have to pay close attention to the smallest details and a large cast of characters in her complicated stories.
“Though this book is written for a younger audience, I hope adults will cross over and read it too,” said George.
George, who has lived in Langley since 2006, decided to write in this new genre after attending a meeting of Langley promoters who wanted to find ways to attract more people to the Village by the Sea. She hit on the idea of setting a young adult novel in Langley, a definite departure from her popular Inspector Lynley mystery series set in Britain.
Setting the scene is one of George’s strong points as a writer. Locals will enjoy reading her detailed, spot-on descriptions of familiar haunts, including the South Whidbey Commons, the Doghouse Tavern and Coupeville. Smugglers Cove Road figures into the novel, and Blue Lady Lane in Langley is mentioned once, George said.
“I don’t think crowds of people will be coming to Langley just to look up these places, but I hope it will add another interesting aspect to the town for visitors,” said George.
As has been her custom when a new novel is released, George will debut the book at a free event at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16. Local actress Shelley Hartle will read the first chapter of “The Edge of Nowhere” and George will be on hand to autograph books provided by Langley’s Moonraker Books.
“Shelley is a great reader, and I know she’ll do a better job than I would do,” said George.
George plans to write three more books in the Becca King series, all set on Whidbey, covering four years in her character’s life. She’s already at work on the second book.
But fans of the enigmatic Inspector Thomas Lynley shouldn’t despair, because George swears she won’t abandon him. She’s just finishing a careful reading of the second draft of her 19th Lynley book, with an Oct. 1 deadline to get it to her publisher.
“It will probably come out in the fall of 2013,” said George.
Meet the author
Elizabeth George will debut her novel “The Edge of Nowhere” from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
Local actress Shelley Hartle will read the first chapter and George will sign books.
Whidbey Island Center for the Arts is located at 565 Camano Ave. in Langley.