In this action-packed thriller written for a young adult audience, author Rebecca Fjelland Davis brings multiple themes to the forefront, places them on the table and gets dirty—dirty as in riding mountain bikes in the woods of a small town and scarily getting involved with some unsavory characters in the wilds of northern Minnesota. With a plot interwoven with themes of death, friendship, family, and abuse, this novel provokes your senses and makes it all worthwhile. At the end of the novel, you hope for a sequel, because you want to know what is going to happen next for the well-drawn characters.
Sixteen-year old protagonist Sadie Lester arrives to stay with her aunt and uncle's home in the woods for the summer and expects the worst. Hoping to escape from her eternally fretting aunt and her wacky uncle, Sadie takes her bike out for a spin and meets Allison Baker (known as Alliecat). Alliecat appears a bit rough around the edges, but she eagerly invites Sadie to ride with her and to enter a mountain bike competition upcoming in the area. She also keeps her life mysteriously guarded; this curious character keeps the the story flowing. Soon after becoming friends the two girls, along with Sadie's cousin Joe, come upon a nearly dead body in the woods. Uncharacteristically, Alliecat disappears, leaving both Sadie and Joe to face new worries.
Along with her complex handling of the plot, Davis also lends her experience as a serious bicyclist to the novel. References to contemporary cyclists and technical bicycle machinery dot the surface of the novel as the story unfolds. The camaraderie of the bicycling community offers a support system for the main characters as they experience fear in dealing with difficult situations.
This story keeps the reader guessing. The mystery unfolds as the characters mindfully try to figure out what is going on and how to protect themselves. Multiple themes, many of them somewhat mature (including death, relationships, and abuse), become a little overwhelming, but the author delivers enough information to tie up loose ends as well as to insert her ideas of the young peoples' thoughts and needs to make the story complete.
Winner of the honorable mention in the Loft Award for Children's Literature/Older Children, Chasing Alliecat is quite an accomplishment. Davis opens up an amazing door of adventure.