Release date: March 28, 2016
Length: 275 pages
A small town swept up in a manhunt for a fugitive from foreign soil and a teenage girl struggling to make the right choices with little information and less time.
In the heat of a stifling summer in her sixteenth year, Livy Marko spends her days in the rust-belt town of Lomath, Pennsylvania, babysitting, hanging out with her best friend, Nelson, and waiting for a bigger life to begin. These simple routines are disrupted when the electricity is cut off and the bridges are closed by a horde of police and FBI agents. A fugitive from the Republic of Georgia, on the run from an extradition order, has taken refuge in nearby hills and no one is able to leave or enter Lomath until he is found.As the police fail to find the wanted man and hours stretch into days, the town of Lomath begins to buckle under the strain. Like Russian dolls, each hostage seems to be harboring a captive of their own. Even Livy’s parents may have something to conceal, and Livy must learn that the source of danger is not always what it appears.Rosalie Knecht’s wise and suspenseful debut evokes the classics while conjuring the contemporary paranoia of the post-terrorist age. Relief Map doesn’t loosen its grip until the consequences of this catastrophic summer, and the ways in which a quiet girl’s fate can be rerouted and forever changed, are made fully apparent.
This book is certainly unique from other things that I’ve read. I found myself liking some aspects of it, but disliking some too. I don’t feel particularly strongly about this book in any way and honestly, I think it is unlikely that it will have any lasting impact on me.
For most of the book, we follow Livy, a teenage girl. Her town, Lomath, has been placed under a blockade because an international fugitive is thought to be hiding there and so no one is able to enter or leave the town. While stuck in town, Livy gets herself into some trouble (I won’t say what!). It takes a very long time for us to find out if she’s going to face any consequences and, in general, what is going to happen. This book is definitely not driven by plot – it focuses much more on the relationships between characters and descriptions of events, the town, etc. which is typical of literary fiction (this is the first literary fiction book I’ve ever read and, well, I’ve found out it’s not something I really enjoy). However, this left me feeling bored for much of the story.
There are a few short sections that follow Revaz, the fugitive behind the blockade. Despite having a big impact on what happens in the story, we don’t see too much of him. I personally didn’t mind because I didn’t find him particularly interesting. This change in POV though is what makes me feel that Relief Map is unique. I can’t think of any other book I’ve read, or even heard about, where POV changes between an adult and a teenager.
I’d say the biggest problem I had with this book was that I really didn’t feel connected to the characters at all. This would be a problem for any book (at least to me), but it was especially troubling since the whole story really focuses more on the characters than on the actual plot. I just found myself bored with the characters or thinking that they made really dumb decisions (ahem, Livy). The only exception to this was that I did really like the friendship between Livy and Nelson. I didn’t really care for either one of them individually, but I liked seeing them together. I thought they had an interesting dynamic and I did really like the scenes with both of them.
What I really liked about the story was that the events were realistic (with maybe the exception of the blockade – I’m not well versed in protocol for capturing international fugitives). The characters’ actions, including their bad ones, had consequences and no one was able to do whatever they wanted and get away with it. This was something I appreciated, because I feel like it’s pretty common for fictional characters of any sort to do something really bad and yet face little to no punishment for it and that didn’t happen in Relief Map.
I don’t really have much else to say. Like I said, it was an OK story but I don’t have any very strong feelings or thoughts about it. It wasn’t that the story or writing were bad, they just weren’t my type of thing. If you’re the type of reader who likes stories that focus on the characters and the writing more than the plot, I’d recommend this to you. If you’re someone (like me) who likes a lot of action or plot-driven books, I’d say to skip this one.