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The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon by Sara Beitia

Book review

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When BW employees leave these hallowed halls, it is often to work on a book. Caldwell-based ex-BW Arts Editor Sara Beitia is no exception. When she left to pursue the life of a novelist, she did so with determination and an eye on young adult fiction. That focus led to the completion of her first novel, The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon (Flux).

Lily Odilon is a teenage girl, a free spirit driven to distraction by a secret. New kid Albert Morales has never had much luck with girls--or peers, authority or his parents. In Lily, he finds a connection, the blushes of first love and a sense of self as he discovers there's more to her than meets the eye. When Lily goes missing, leaving behind only a cryptic message, Albert and Lily's sharp-tongued sister Olivia band together and take it upon themselves to find her ... before someone else does.

Beitia explained that she worked on the book for a little less than a year and the fast-paced narrative reflects that. The story jumps timelines and rather than confuse readers, the flash-backs and -forwards keep them engaged. And by continually expanding Albert, Lily and Olivia's characters through these temporal shifts, the characters' sense of urgency soon becomes the readers'.

Jokingly agreeing that she writes young adult fiction because she herself is emotionally stunted, Beitia's actual reason for writing in this genre is much more astute.

"It's hard to explain, but teenagers to me are in such an interesting and hopeful and highly emotional period of life." Beitia says. "Everything is so important and it has so much meaning and the feelings are so strong and overwhelming. They haven't been beat down by life. It's a very hopeful state of being. The whole world is in front of them, they're right on the cusp of being good, bad and indifferent. I found that really compelling."

And although you may have left that "hopeful state of being" behind years ago and Beitia's debut novel begs for a sequel (she says that's not the plan), The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon is a compelling read.