The Wanderers by Sarah Barkoff

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When eighteen-year-old Sosie Friedman's mother dies in a horrific car crash, rumors around her small beach town swirl that the accident was really a suicide-plot gone awry. Desperate to prove the gossipers wrong, she digs into her mother’s past and uncovers clues that suggest her mother wasn’t who she pretended to be.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, she connects with a school acquaintance, a quiet but thoughtful loner, who introduces her to his small group of friends. Swept into their curious world, she embarks on a road trip with them to escape Sandy’s destruction—and to discover a man who may hold clues to her mother's death. But like the shoreline under the lashing winds and rain, her reality starts disintegrating before her eyes the more she learns. When she wakes up in the aftermath of a car crash eerily reminiscent of her mother’s, her new friends are nowhere to be found.

Sosie must now piece together evidence to explain her mother’s death, or risk suffering a similar fate.

14+ due to adult situations

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Excerpt:

I don’t make it out of my mother’s room before the light flickers, bright then dim, bright then dim, until the power goes out all together. The wind outside sounds like a choir of whistlers, hissing back and forth, each time getting louder then softer. I wobble over to my mother’s bedroom window and peer out, but there’s nothing on the other side, just a backdrop of pure blackness. I hear the branches on trees lashing about, but I can’t see them. Absolutely nothing but darkness stares back at me. My fingertips touch the glass, longing to go outside, like a grounded child who’s been punished from recess. I collapse to the floor, my body hitting the ground in a thud, tears of frustration streaming down my hot cheeks.

My cell phone buzzes in my pocket, and I pray it’s not my father following up to see if I’ve gone to stay at a friend’s house. Then again, who am I kidding? According to his crappy daddy standards, he’s more than surpassed his fatherly duties for the week when he took time out of his important life to call the cops when he couldn’t reach me or when he, gasp, had to call out of work. He’s probably sitting in his hotel room in London, having a bottle of red wine until he passes out cold, and thinking about what fuck up I am.

I glance at my phone. It’s not my father or Johnny. It’s a text message from a number I don’t recognize. For a split second, I consider ignoring it, but there’s a far-fetched hope in the back of my mind that hopes its Nolan. I don’t know why. There’s nothing to give me any indication that it could be. He probably doesn’t even know my name or who I am, but hope has a funny way of playing tricks on my brain, especially when I’ve been drinking and taking pills.

In the darkness where I sit on the dusty floor, my phone illuminates the room. I click into the message, and turn the sound all the way up. There’s the haunting sound of the crunching. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. I know instantly it’s Shira’s video from the bathroom. But this time I see images, someone’s feet, leather tattered work boots, and they’re trudging through heavy weeds and dead leaves. The camera shifts to the man’s face, but only for a moment. He’s got a black mustache, and pitted skin like craters on the moon. He’s not saying anything at first. There’s only breathing, rapid gasps like he’s nervous and trying to take in more air to steady himself. The footage moves to a mangled car.

A car I know, my mother’s car.

It’s totaled, the entire thing smashed like it went through a garbage compacter. Then, even though I know it’s coming, the man says the words I’m dreading. “Wowza, that must’ve hurt. She’s not so pretty anymore.” My stomach lurches once I hear it, but nothing prepares me for what I see next.

It’s her. She’s wearing that red and yellow flowered dress that I can still picture her in, just as I had the night she died before she kissed me on the cheek and walked out the door forever, the flowy fabric fluttering behind her as she got into her car and left. But the dress looks nothing like my memories. It’s ripped apart and filthy, parts of it burned, and exposing her bra and the bare, bloodied skin on her décolleté. The camera shifts some more, closes in on an image I never should’ve seen, something that’s bound to haunt me for the rest of my life.

“No, no, no, no,” I wail, throwing my phone across the room with such force that it hits the wall, and explodes into a million pieces. I’m seething, hysterical, and my entire head is on fire. I’m shrieking as I sit there in the dark, like I’m in the middle of a horror flick, and a masked murderer has just discovered where I’m hiding. I don’t realize I’m still screaming until my voice gives out, my mouth still open but nothing coming out anymore.

There’s disbelief in my utter panic, like I can’t believe what I’ve just seen. I don’t know what sick person would send something so horrific to me, but if I ever find out, I’ll wrap my hands around their throat until they stop breathing.

Outside the wind is howling, and storm sirens wail through the air. All I want is to get away from myself, this house, my life, but this storm is bringing everything to a halt, trapping me in this hell. Because there’s no other escape, I choke down more pills while the tears pour down my cheeks, and then after a while, stumble back to my mother’s writing desk for a pen and paper. I light dozens of tea lights around the room, on the floor around her bed, on her dresser, bedside table, desk, and then sit down to write.

Product Reviews

Score: 5 out of 5 (based on 11 ratings)
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5/5
Full of Twists You'll Never See Coming
Written by Brandy Snow on 18th Aug 2019

Okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, The Wanderers is the book I mentored in the WriteMentor program. Honestly the take-away from the disclosure above is that I knew this book was a winner even from reading an earlier draft. Sarah Barkoff is a master storyteller that intricately weaves together plot lines and sprinkles them with "little clues" about the coming plot twist that YOU WILL MISS until the twist hits and then BAM! it suddenly clicks and let's just say your mind will be blown. Really....Mind. Blown. I don't like to give away spoilers in my positive critiques b/c honestly, I don't want to ruin this experience for you, so I'll just say this: The MC Sosie is struggling, as she should be with an absentee father and a mother whose mysterious death has rocked her world. Throw in the gossip from the town and the demons in Sosie's memories of her mother, add a dash of family secrets and a sprinkle of new-found friends (one of whom has that thick Southern accent that makes me swoon), and you have the recipe for a book that you won't soon forget. A book that will floor you (and shock you at times) and then ball up your emotions in a tight wad. I'll leave you with this: THE PLOT TWIST. OMG, the plot twist. Here's my hint: pay attention to all the little signs along the way and see if you can figure it out. I bet you can't! :) Enjoy reading this awesome book--I give it 5 out of 5 emotional and gut-wrenching stars. You won't want to put it down!

5/5
Buy it!!!
Written by Christinia Watts on 18th Aug 2019

Without giving too much away, this book had some really unexpected plot twists that I truly didn't see coming, at all. I don't usually read YA, but this book was definitely for mature audiences, and really got me from page one. Highly recommend!

5/5
Masterfully original and relatable. Couldn’t put this book down.
Written by LA on 18th Aug 2019

The Wanderers truly took me on a journey. The author Sarah Barkoff brilliantly told a tragic and heartbreaking story of the loss a parent, mental illness, and navigating new friendships. The character Sosie is smart and complicated and you will feel her every emotion page to page. I could not put this book down. Highly recommend!

5/5
Great read!!!
Written by Amazon Customer on 18th Aug 2019

Wow!!! Sat down this morning to begin reading The Wanderers and finished this well written, captivating novel in one day! Easy to read and draws one in from the beginning . The author does an excellent job introducing the characters and their circumstances so vividly that it made me not want to put the book down . The ending is surprising and so descriptive that I know I’ll think about it for days to come .

5/5
INCREDIBLE book with amazing twist!!!
Written by Amazon Customer on 18th Aug 2019

Sarah is one of the most talented writers in the game, for sure. I loved this book from the very first chapter, and the fact that I did not see the ending coming IN THE LEAST, made me love it even more. I feel like in this day and age, plot twists are easy to spot and barely original. That is NOT the case here. This book is smart, thrilling, and perfectly executed. I cannot recommend it enough. If you like YA and are tired of the same old stories, read this book. You won’t regret it. It tackles very real and delicate issues without pandering to the reader, giving them a sort of dignity in their own way. Just read it.

5/5
Impressive Debut Novel
Written by Aaron Summers on 18th Aug 2019

You've gotta love a book that makes a road trip work. It's no easy feat. Because, let's face it: take away the setting, strip away the style, when you've got a cast of colorful characters in close quarters, like we find in The Wanderers, things can get real interesting fast. That is, if the writer let's them be. Thankfully, Sarah let's them loose. Untethered and unbridled amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, these characters find freedom, and we're able to enjoy the ride. This book is eminently readable--from the well-crafted, linear story-line about a young woman trying to find out the truth about her mother's death, through the vivid prose, and finally, to the jaw-dropping conclusion. I challenge anyone to read this cover to cover and tell me you saw that conclusion coming. I read The Wanderers greedily, in a binge over the course of four days (a near-record for a guy like me who is not only a slow reader but also has ADD) and by the end wanted more. The book has the pace and vision of an ambitious debut novel, but it also has something else: fire between the words that make it impossible to put down.

5/5
Reignited my love for reading again!
Written by Michelle on 18th Aug 2019

When I ordered Sarah's book I did not know what to expect. I have to say I was hooked by the time I was done reading the first page. It has been a long time since a writer has been able to immediately grab my attention and make me want to keep reading, page after page. The way she writes impressed me - I don't know that I have witnessed writing with such detail and description for not only how her characters look, to how they sound, the surroundings and places in which the scenes happen, to even the characters thoughts and actions. At times it felt as though I were standing right there with Sosie, experiencing what she was and feeling what she was feeling. I almost think Sarah wrote it better than I could have seen it with my own eyes if I were there. The book and the story get you emotionally invested with each turn that it takes. I was not prepared for the surprises and turns that happen in the story, even to the final pages and up to how it ended. It has been a few weeks since I read her book and to be honest I think I am still working through my feelings about Sosie and everything that happened. Part of me still hurts for her, is sad by what happened and even a bit angry at all the same time. It had been a little over a year since I took the time to sit down with a book and I am so glad that I did. Thank you Sarah for reigniting my love for reading. I will be waiting for your next release!

5/5
Couldn't go to bed until finishing this book!
Written by amazon on 27th Jun 2019

I finished this book in a day! Holy twist I didn't see coming! Sosie, you will stay with me for a long time.

5/5
The Wanderers
Written by Richard on 27th Jun 2019

This is a fantastic read. The read grabbed me right from the beginning until the end its a real page turner. I love how the Author brought out the Characters. And surrounding. So you could see the scenes in your minds eye perfectly. Sosie has been through the ringer and is trying to find out secrets about her family. During the time that terrible weather has affected the area. This is right up there with Divergent. This is definitely a must read. Shauna Joesten

4/5
Shocking twist!!
Written by Christy Hancock on 27th Jun 2019

The Wanderers is truly a book about understanding mental illnesses or to me it was. It was an eye opener for me because I guess I never really though about the struggle someone goes through that has a mental illness. My heart bled for Sosie and what she went through. This is a great read! Definitely would recommend it!

4/5
Good story with twists and turns...
Written by Amanda Lyons on 23rd Jun 2019

The Wanderers follows Sosie Friedman's life and her struggles after her mother passes away in a car accident. She uses alcohol and drugs as a way to numb the pain and block the rumors surrounding her mothers death. When Sosie finds a photo of her mother with a mysterious man that's not her father, she sets out to find out who he is with the help of her new friends. But things take a drastic change after Sosie gets into a car accident and the cops start asking questions. I really enjoyed this book and thought it was well written. It focuses on friends, family, and the importance of mental health.