Wow, that was an absolutely amazing read. I think this book is one of the very few that made my heart almost burst out of anxiety and suspense, and one of the few Young Adult novels (that isn't YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy) that I really, really like. I finished it just 5 minutes ago and I just had to start writing my review now while my feelings are still raw!
The plot was very suspenseful and terrifying. I'm actually quite surprised to see it in a Young Adult novel, considering it's a very touchy and sensitive issue. I, myself, feel terrified just thinking about it (especially since I've watched Taken starring Liam Neeson... that made me anxious about going to other countries by myself!), and this book was no exception! It was fast-paced, making my stomach twist and turn at every page, and my heart swell in so much dread and despair for the two sisters! I'm very glad that despite the subject being very horrifying, the writer was able to portray it well and make the story gripping and powerful. It made me realize that the subject matter is NOT a joke... I may be in the comfort of my own home, reading books on my kindle, but it's real and it's happening out there somewhere. Many girls have become victims of it, and a good number of them are still trapped and have nowhere to run. It's a depressing thought, but it's reality.
As for the characters, I loved Valerie the most. Finally, a young adult heroine with common sense! I loved her reactions to certain revelations and how she handled herself majority of the time. Level-headed. Cool. Not overly dramatic. She wasn't stupid like most YA characters out there (*cough*), and was very calculating and reflective, making her very real and not "forced" at all. The things she did were probably the things I would do (not that I'm saying I'm level-headed, but I definitely am not stupid!) if I were in her shoes, and that made me appreciate her a lot. She was fierce and protective of her sister despite the latter being a really mean bully at the beginning. In fact, I didn't like the sister very much - she was too aggressive and rebellious for my taste.
I was also quite surprised at the high school here! It definitely wasn't the kind of high school I would want to study in, with so much gossipers, vile teenagers, and whatnot. Then again, coming from an all-girls Catholic school in the Philippines, perhaps I was simply just too sheltered from these things, but even if I studied in a co-ed private/public school, I don't see such an environment manifesting itself there as well. Nevertheless, it made me a bit frustrated to see Val in such a cold and uninviting environment, and made me thankful that I didn't have to go through such bullshit.
Lastly, I absolutely admire that this novel was able to portray to the readers the kind of values that we seem to... lack recently. It showed how trust and loyalty can go a long way, and that no matter what happens, your family will always be there for you. Always. Shit may hit the fan, but your family will always have your back, and will support you through thick and thin. At least, that's how I interpreted it, and that's how we are being taught here at home, and I'm glad that this novel efficiently illustrated that through Val and Sam's relationship as sisters.