Hoping a brother-sister bond is strong enough
Rachel's older brother Micah has gone missing. She's been keeping his secrets for so long that telling her parents about his drug addiction now seems beside the point. When a stranger sends her an email, warning her that her brother’s in danger, Rachel asks Micah's friend and bandmate Tyler for help. They set out to search for him, finding clues and complications along the way.
Out of Reach is author Carrie Arcos' first novel, and she bravely turns conventional expectations upside-down. Rachel and Tyler search for Micah but also get distracted by crushing on each other. We meet Micah through flashbacks and can see how Rachel's guilt stems from how close the brother and sister once were before drugs and deception pulled them apart. Despite pulling no punches about the destruction caused by meth addiction, Arcos never reduces characters to caricature; there's humanity under every surface story.
The journey is the destination in this novel, and it's full of grimy Southern California coastal towns, surfers, drug dealers and gang-bangers. Arcos uses details to sketch Micah's life, as when Rachel finds a room where he'd been staying: “I sat down on the bed and opened the bag, dumping the contents onto the floor: a pair of jeans, three socks, a guitar pick, a black cap, a broken pair of sunglasses, and The Hobbit. Of all my books, he'd stolen that one. I hadn't even noticed.”
Some readers may wish for a neater conclusion, but the open-ended resolution feels like a new beginning for Rachel. Out of Reach is unconventional, edgy and raw, and a fine first novel.