Hanging by a Thread Library Binding – Sep 11 2012
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About the Author
SOPHIE LITTLEFIELD is the Edgar-nominated author of several thrillers for adults. She lives with her family in Northern California.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Littlefield / HANGING BY A THREAD
They say our house is cursed, and maybe it’s true. It’s been in my mom’s family for almost a hundred years. It was a dress and alterations shop until ten years ago, when my mom and dad poured all their money into restorations so we could live in it. As soon as it was finished, they got divorced and we all moved away. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Three weeks ago, my mom and I moved back to town. We were finally getting around to hanging pictures on the walls, and the first one we pulled out of the moving box was of my great-great-grandmother Alma. In the old black-and-white photograph from the 1920s, she’s standing in front of this same house.
The image is of Alma in her early twenties and very pregnant. She looks pretty in her simple wool serge dress. But she’s overshadowed by the young woman standing next to her, who is wearing a gorgeous wedding gown. Silk voile drapes the bodice and dropped waist, and the Cluny lace veil is accented with small white feather plumes and pearls. If you look carefully, you can detect a darkness, a hint of fear, behind the young woman’s shy smile.
The day after the picture was taken, both Alma and the young bride were dead.
I hung the picture while Mom watched, hands on her hips, directing me to move it a little higher, a little to the left. She’s a perfectionist. I’m the creative type. Needless to say, this caused problems in our relationship, but we were treating each other gingerly. The move had caused enough stress already, and we were one sharp word away from a meltdown.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled about leaving my old high school in the city and coming back to a tiny town where I only had one friend, but I was determined to make the best of it. I’d lived in Winston until I was ten, and I’d kept in touch with my best friend, Rachel, ever since. She’d grown up to be beautiful, popular, and—thanks to her dad’s involvement in several start-up companies that had done well—rich, and she’d promised to get me connected with the in crowd at Winston High.
This was my big chance to finally fit in. Don’t get me wrong—I’d loved my two years at my private arts high school. It was where I got interested in fashion design, and I’d made some good friends. But I’d had enough of the artistic temperaments competing for attention at the Blake School, enough of the drama and the edginess of the San Francisco art scene. I was tired of sharing a cramped two-bedroom apartment with my mom. I just wanted to know what normal felt like, and a sleepy little beach town with a population of two thousand people seemed like the perfect place to find out.
My mom wasn’t adapting very well to being back, however. When we’d moved three hours north six years earlier, it was like she decided to put her entire past behind her, not just my dad. She broke contact with all her old friends and threw herself into her new job in the city. As the years passed, she changed. She became more polished, more professional, and more distant.
When my dad lost his job a few months ago and couldn’t keep up with his child support payments, private school was suddenly no longer an option. Then rents went up in our building, and the accounting firm my mom worked for was hit hard by the economy and she lost some important clients. When my dad offered to sign over his share of the house in Winston, she saw a solution to our problems. She bought out a small accounting firm in town from a man who was retiring, the renters moved out of the old dress shop, and we moved back as soon as school was over.
“So sad,” she sighed, once I’d hung the photograph exactly where she wanted it, in the small foyer of our house. “Poor Alma.”
It’s the exact same thing she said when I hung the photo in the San Francisco apartment. I remember because I didn’t know the story back then and I wanted to know what was so sad about it. My mom gave me a watered-down version, but later I got the whole story from my grandmother.
Back in 1923, Alma was a newlywed herself, excited about the arrival of her first child, planning to quit her job at the dress shop after giving birth. Her last big project was a wedding dress for a beautiful young woman engaged to a violent and jealous man named Forrest Hansen. Hansen had accused his fiancée of secretly seeing another man, an attorney in town, and though she’d denied it, she made the mistake of stopping to talk to the attorney one day when they met in the street. Hansen followed her to the shop that evening, waiting in the shadows outside while Alma made a few final alterations and a photographer took the bridal portrait for the newspaper. After the photographer left, Hansen stormed into the shop, yelling accusations. While the lovers argued, Alma must have tried to intervene, because after shooting his fiancée, Hansen shot Alma too.
She lived long enough for her baby to be taken from her that night. The coroner wrapped the baby in the wed- ding dress, which was lying nearby on the cutting table, to keep her warm. The baby was a healthy girl—my great-grandmother Josie—who would go on to work in this same dress shop when she grew up.
Hansen was caught, tried, and executed. But something else happened that night. Amid the terrible storm of jealousy and rage and violence, Alma’s innocent baby was born with a strange gift, one that she passed along to one of her own daughters—my Nana—and eventually, when I was twelve years old, to me.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main character, Clare, is overly analytic, having several reaction moments throughout the book where she just has to pause ... and ask herself: should I text him back, or not? Is my friend acting strange, or is she simply stressed?
And then there is this old friend from another town names Lincoln who she keeps wanting to call but never does. Did I really need to know about this guy???
Take away all the unnecessary fluff and I would give this 4 stars, easily. The crime scene is well done and the suspects interesting.
Why not give it a try?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I really enjoyed Clare's voice. She wasn't whiny, but life has handed her an unfair hand. She is physically, emotionally, and mentally suffering by getting involved in figuring out who is the murderer, but her guilt would eat her up if she doesn't. I also really liked the mystery behind it; In all honesty I couldn't guess who was the murderer until the very end. Also, you get to witness a little of the dark side of every connected character in the novel when Clare touches a piece of their clothes. This definitely added an aura of mystery and distrust for every character; even the one Clare has started to develop a crush on.
The author's writing was not complicated at all. You get so sucked into the story and there are no complex words to get in the way of your reading. The build up of the plot and the addition of this paranormal theme to a mystery novel all added up my enjoyment level while reading Hanging by a Thread. I would definitely recommend it to all young adult lovers. You get a bit of contemporary, paranormal, and mystery all in one book you don't want to miss out on!
I saw some of the low reviews on this before reading it but really wanted to come into it without any prejudices whatsoever.
However, sadly I am going to have to agree with some of the lower rating reviews.
While the author had a brilliant idea for this book, a girl who comes from a long line of seamstresses and a rocky history gets gifted with the ability to see people's past by touching their clothes, the storyline is a little jilted.
At times we get way too much information about things that don't really seem important, like some of her clothing designs and her old school and friends, which made the read a little slow going. And then other times it is almost like we don't get enough information about the visions themselves and her family history.
This book didn't feel complete at the end. I felt a little put down and almost lost with how things wrapped up so quickly. It just didn't feel right to me.
I did really like Clare and Jack and I wish their relationship would have had a little more focus and detail to it. I think the story just could have been so much better if the author would have concentrated a little more on her visions and Jack and less on her artist ability and old school and friends.
This wasn't a bad read just not a great one either. It wouldn't keep me from trying her other books but it wouldn't make me buy them either if I didn't already own them.
Over all I am going to give this one 3 stars because the characters were likeable and I think they were pretty good, there just wasn't enough depth and detail to really hold my interest and the storyline was lacking in areas, otherwise I would have no problem with giving it a higher rating but I don't think that would be fair to other readers if I did.
Lucky for me HANGING BY A THREAD was actually a really good book and a welcome addition to a sorely underrepresented thriller market in YA. Yes, it has slightly supernatural elements: Clare sees people's histories when she touches clothes, something her mother has brow-beaten into her as being bad while her grandmother (also a gift-holder) doesn't feel the same way, leaving a lovely rift in the family.
So while Clare's mom did her best to eliminate this "gift" from her daughter, it's left Clare a bit conflicted. She's started seeing things in some random clothes she picked up. And they're horrible things. And she just doesn't know what to do about it. The town has a murder mystery that's going to end up destroying it and Clare just might have it in her to solve it. Except for the fact that she wants nothing more than to fit in in a new, and small, town. What would her new friends think if they knew about what she could do? Call her a freak? Probably. So not only is she torn about how to use her gift at home, she doesn't even know if she should be herself socially, if people will accept her for it.
I loved Clare. I loved that she was so passionate about design, that she was so goal-oriented about making her passion work for her and how, at sixteen-years-old, she already as a small "business" selling her wares in her new home. Her new friends love her style and all she wants to do is make the history of her family (and the supposed haunted house she lives in) go away and she does a pretty good job of it. It also helps that most of the people she comes in contact with don't put as much emphasis on her family's past as she does. Really she's just such a wonderful character that it was impossible for me to not immediately get on her side about everything. And then the crap really started hitting the fan and she didn't have all the answers and actually had to do work herself (loved that! kind of rare in YA, unfortunately) I could actually feel her being torn about things, I could feel her desire to help but at the same time warring with herself about just what she could do.
Her love interest, Jake, I was less than impressed with. He's set up to have a bad reputation from the beginning which, I think, is a fairly obvious red herring to some extent but he really didn't do much to put the kibosh on any of it. He was temperamental, snapped at Clare a lot, gave her the cold shoulder after little more than a comment he wasn't thrilled with. I did like the fact that Clare argued with herself over liking him, about how she shouldn't because there was something off about him. At least she realized it but ultimately it didn't stop her which kind of irked me. He did turn out to be a good guy but if it were me just the things he said and how he acted in the beginning would have been a total turn-off and not something I would have pursued.
HANGING BY A THREAD offers its own unique blend of supernatural and thriller to deliver a story that'll keep you sucked in from the beginning. Balanced out by Clare's will to just have a normal life, it gives the story just enough grounding to keep it something believable as opposed to launching it into outer space. It won't take very long before you start trying to put the pieces together and try and solve the mystery right along with Clare. Even if you're not big into supernatural elements, Clare's ability isn't an overwhelming force in the story. It serves it's purpose and it could have gotten out of control but Littlefield did an excellent job of reigning it in and keeping it relevant to the plot and making sure Clare didn't lose focus of it. Of course the story wouldn't be what it is without Clare's gift but it moves things along without leading them along.
Just like YA needs more horror, it needs more thriller as well. A story that focuses on THE STORY, where the main motivation, the main theme, is the thriller aspect. Not romance, not angst, thriller. HANGING BY A THREAD delivers not only all of this but blissfully leaves behind the love triangle for something, you know, more interesting.
I thought the choice of psychic ability was an interesting one. It gave the possibility for good tidbits of information and fit perfectly with the mystery solving aspect of the story.
Upon her return to her hometown, Clare has rekindled a childhood friendship with Rachel who is one of the popular girls. Rachel is helping Clare sell the items she creates from vintage clothing.
Imagine some of the crazy visions she must have had since all of the materials she world with are used.
Her summer seems to be going great until Clare meets and starts to fall for bad boy Jack, as well as finding a jacket that belonged to a young girl that is believed to have been murdered last year. Coincidentally, the missing girl Amanda used to be Jack's girlfriend. The jacket sends Clare into a fit of visions and she feels compelled to find out all she can.
The plot of Hanging by a Thread was simple and I liked it that way. There were a few purposeful misleads by the author that really worked. She did a great job of depicting teenagers and their crazy antics. The things they did as well as their behavior really rang true to me.
I also liked that she was able to include some family drama and teenage romance without these things overwhelming the main murder mystery plot of the story. I would definitely recommended Hanging by a Thread to my teenage kid sister.
But when her strange talent of seeing the past through people's clothes takes her down a dark path toward the town's most infamous murder mystery, will she deny the gift she was given or embrace everything she is.
Hanging By A Thread was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I liked the characters the most, and Littlefield's undertones about fitting in and excepting who you are even when others can't see past what they want you to be. I found these underlying personal struggles more compelling than the plot. The story line wasn't bad, but it wasn't as original as I had hoped it would be.
Overall though, Hanging By A Thread was nice romantic murder mystery with great characters and themes sure to strike a cord with young adults.