There are some kinds of trouble you never see coming, begins Elise Broach's Desert Crossing, a young adult thriller and departure from her previous tween mystery and picture books. The narrator is Lucy Martinez, a high school freshman traveling with her older brother, Jamie, and his annoying best friend, Kit. Their drive from Kansas City to Phoenix to spend spring break with Lucy and Jamie's father appears uneventful until they reach a long stretch of highway through the New Mexico desert.
A sudden, blinding rain. A few chugs of beer. A bump in the road. While Jamie thinks he saw he saw a coyote dart away from the car, Lucy insists that they investigate the cause of the bump. The teens cross a line between Ã”then' and Ã”now,' as they discover a dead girl lying on the side of the road.
With the help of Beth, a local 30-something artist, the teens are able to call the police and find a place to stay when they are ordered to remain in the area during the initial investigation. Just as the rain turns dusty browns into lush greens, the seemingly lifeless desert holds more surprises for Lucy, Jamie and Kit. The three unexpectedly find themselves not wanting to leave.
For Jamie, the lure of the desert is a steamy romance with Beth. Although Lucy and Kit find themselves attracted to each other as well, Lucy's biggest desire is solving the dead girl's mysterious death. Their investigation goes where the police probe fails, as they find hidden evidence, risk their lives and lead the authorities to the real killer.
On the surface, Broach pens a suspenseful page-turner. What lies beneath her masterful storytelling is the loss of innocence and the pain of never being able to return. When the teens are finally able to leave the desert, they realize that their once normal lives have become a faÂade for the secrets they now carry. Angela Leeper is an educational consultant and freelance writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina.