Book Review: Risk

Title: Risk

Author: Fleur Ferris

Genre: YA / Mystery

Pages: 279

Rating: ★★★★☆

Meet Taylor’s best friend; Sierra Carson-Mills. She’s blonde, she’s gorgeous, and she’s wild at heart. Nothing seems to frighten her, and she always gets what she wants – especially when it comes to boys.

Sierra and Taylor have been best friends since they were young, but there has also been a bit of competition between the two girls.

Fleur Ferris’s debut novel Risk begins one afternoon when the girls are on Mysterychat, a website that allows them to chat with strangers.

Now enter Jacob Jones; the boy of every girls dreams.

He’s a bit of a sweetheart, he’s fun to talk to and he seems like he’s actually interested in Taylor – he doesn’t ask for pictures of her boobs, he asks her about herself. Not to mention he looks like a total hottie in his Instagram pics. Taylor spends the rest of the weekend chatting with him, and she begins to fall for him.

The only trouble is, Jacob’s also interested in Sierra.

Angry at Sierra for once again stealing her guy, and embarrassed that she thought Jacob actually liked her, Taylor refuses to go to the mall with Sierra to meet up with Jacob.

But Sierra doesn’t come home on Friday night after her date.

And she doesn’t come home on Saturday, either.

By Sunday, Taylor and her friends are seriously worried. Sierra has done this kind of thing before, but not to this extreme. Taylor tells her mum, and the police quickly become involved.

Jacob Jones is not who he seems – he is a pedophile who grooms young women via the internet.

Sierra’s disappearance rocks her family, her friends, and the local community.

In the wake of it all, Taylor and her friends are dealing with grief, guilt, and loss… but Taylor may hold the key to capturing the man who kidnapped her best friend.

The main thing I loved (and feared) about Risk is how real it all felt. Fleur Ferris worked for 17 years as a police-officer and paramedic, so she obviously knows what she’s talking about and this shines through in the book.

The characters all felt so real and three-dimensional. It was interesting to see the way that the group of friends each dealt with their grief in different ways. They felt like an authentic group of teenagers and it was interesting to see the way their relationships developed over the story.

I really liked Taylor as a protagonist. She deals with all the emotions of a normal teenager; body image issues, jealousy over friends, boy trouble, and everyday school life. But she also has a lot more than that going on beneath the surface. Sierra’s disappearance totally changes Taylor’s world. I like the way she overcomes issues and faces challenges with sturdy determination.

I think that Risk is probably one of the most significant YA books currently in print.

When I have kids, I will definitely be handing this book down to them and opening up a discussion about online safety. I think that this book should be compulsory reading in high-school, because the subject matter is so relevant to our everyday lives in our technology-driven society. While the topic is frightening, there are no gory details so it is appropriate for a pre-teen audience as well as young adults.

It’s so easy to forget that we are engaging with a certain level of risk every time we talk to someone we don’t know online. I remember the old rules; don’t give out your name, your age, photos of yourself, or your address. They seem almost comical now because these days it we are all happy to plaster our details all over social media.

As a blogger and a writer who engages with many people over the internet, it’s easy to forget the need to be careful – and the fact that there is a risk. It’s just so easy to feel comfortable talking to people online. And while most of the time this is okay to do – people are not always what they seem.

As Risk points out, the pedophiles who groom people over the internet are very skilled at what they do. They are cold and calculating, and they know how to manipulate their targets.

Although this book is aimed at a YA audience, I think that Risk is a must-read for everyone; teens, parents, teachers, and anyone who uses the internet. Not only is it relevant, but it is also captivating and heart-wrenching.

I read it in one day because I couldn’t put it down once I started.

The same night that I finished reading Risk, I chanced upon Fleur’s recently released second novel, Black, and I bought it without a second-thought. Fleur Ferris is a great Australian  author and I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us.

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