BE CAREFUL WHO YOU PICK UP
Wow. He’ll Be Waiting by Liz Alterman was so unputdownable, I wanted to read it again when I went over the beginning to write my review. Like the writing of the poignant scenes, they forced me to pause so I could wipe my eyes, but I can’t get into that since it’ll spoil the moment that you read them. However, when you add the poignancy with all the images enhanced by the elegant flow of Liz’s prose, you have a young adult thriller that will inspire you to read past the time you planned to stop.
As for this in-depth review, to not spoil the read, it’ll focus on the way Alterman sets up the beginning to hook your interest in Tess Porter’s life and death story until the ending blows you away with its heartwarming effect. There were so many great examples in the 40 pages available on Kindle, it was hard to narrow it down, but also fun since I got to enjoy them again. With that said, the most impressive hooks start with the way page one jumps out and excites your curiosity, the next one happens when you and Tess finally see her reflection, and the last hook appears after getting a foreboding glimpse into what happens when she realizes she’s the only person who knows what happened to her.
HOOKED BY PAGE ONE
When I read reviews saying this book hooked them from page one, I thought it must be hyperbole for the general beginning of the story. But I was wrong. It literally hooks you on page one! The hook starts right there with the title of chapter one: The Secrets We Keep From Ourselves. If that wasn’t ominous enough, the first sentence will definitely give you the feeling that something tragic happened to the narrator since she describes her circumstance as “I can handle the broken bones, the bruises, the bald patches—all of it.” The following sentence adds to the ominous sentiment but also adds teenage angst about the thing that’s “bothering [her] more than… everything else combined,” and that thing is she “can’t remember the last time [she] saw James.” Then, later on the page, she describes “feeling as if [she’d] been trampled by circus elephants, with no idea of where [she] was and no memory of seeing him. No clue what happened on the night [she’d] been looking forward to for nearly four months.” With the first sentence about her present state to this last description, page one definitely hooked me, and each time Tess remembers more, the thrill of solving the mystery captivated me more, too.
FRIGHTENING TO LOOK AT
Once I got to the second chapter called “Incommunicado,” I couldn’t put the book down. If I wasn’t so busy adulting, I would’ve read this novel in a couple of days. Because on page 12, the ominous meter jumped to a new high. It happened when Tess narrates, “No one will give me a mirror until the swelling and the bruising go down, but my reflection in the window is enough to let me know my selfie days are over.” This part is perfect for a teenager in today’s world since the selfie is super important to everyone, not just teens. At this point no one’s sure what actually happened to Tess, but when her mom groans after seeing her shaved head and the nurse reveals her hair will grow back except for where the staples are, the hook gets deeper since you can sense something crazy traumatic happened to Tess. But it’s the description of her mom’s reaction to seeing Tess’s present state that seals the feeling; for instance, the reaction’s shown as the mother stands over Tess, “hand covering her mouth, the way she looked that time she spotted a mouse in the pantry.” It was almost impossible to stop reading after realizing how scary Tess looks after the horrific event.
THE POLICE DON’T KNOW EITHER
Even though the third chapter also gave me the unputdownable feeling, it’s the fourth chapter called “Be Still” that really confirms something insane happened to Tess. After she’s fed up with her psychologist trying to motivate her to remember on her own, the psychologist reveals no one knows what happened, not even the police; it’s this revelation that triggers Tess to narrate, “The Police? A lump swells in my throat, and my pulse throbs in my neck. The thought that the answers to this are buried deep in my brain makes me scared and sick to my stomach—like barfing-after-a-thrill-ride ill” (27). It’s this part that increases the ominousness of Alterman’s young adult thriller. Then it gets more intense when Tess continues, “For the first time since I woke up here yesterday afternoon, I find myself actively trying not to remember as another eerie thought crosses my mind: What if I’m better off never knowing what happened?” (27). Exhale. By this point, I was hooked and ready to be reeled in by this story’s masterful prose.
WALKING THROUGH THE LAST DOOR
After the brilliant set up, it just gets more intense with every big scene’s revelation. Once you get to the diary chapters, the author unveils a captivating snowball effect that’ll have you fully immersed since you’re finding out what happened simultaneously with Tess. One chapter had so much intriguing info and a fantastic pace, you’ll feel breathless at the end. Another was an undeniable page-turner, making you wish you could read faster. Then there’s the chapter that forced me to get a towel and dry my cheeks.
One of the unique parts about this young adult thriller is you get to witness Tess Porter getting through the aftermath of figuring out what happened to her on the mysterious night. It’s this part that makes the read satisfying because you don’t have to guess what happened to the main character or the side characters after the mystery’s solved. The humanity behind this part is universal, and it helps everyone since it shows you how hard it is to just get back to the normalcy, we’d all crave after surviving a horrid night. Liz Alterman’s He’ll Be Waiting is a bona fide must-read that’ll keep you turning the pages while making you wish you had more time to read.
Thank you for reading our in-depth book review about He’ll Be Waiting by Liz Alterman. We are not affiliated with the publisher, but here’s the link to pick up a copy.
E. R. Sanchez is the author of Fried Potato Press’ first young adult thriller, Petaco Dreams, which will be released in 2024 after the rewrite, new title and cover. He also has poems and stories published online and in print. If you’d like to read his work that was published online, please click here to go to his Stories and Poetry Section.