The Way Back is what I could describe a psychological drama. Thirteen year old Charlie is your typical teenage girl trying to navigate the perils of high school, frenemies and boys, and spends every spare moment with Tic Tac, her pony. Everything changes when one day Charlie doesn’t return from her ride. In fact there is no trace Charlie anywhere. Four month later and Charlie is found filthy, unkept and undernourished. What happened to her? Is it just as simple as returning home? Can you really just go back?
I enjoyed the format of this novel, set in three parts: before, during and after. Simple, ordered, anything but the story within. This novel looks at the holistic impact on a family in a time of crisis. From Charlie suffering her ordeal, to her parents both dealing in their own ways struggling to connect with each other, to her brother struggling even before his sister goes missing. Ladd gives a good representation of trauma and how it manifests in different people, an important factor and one that would make me recommend this to someone trying to understand the role trauma plays. Personally I found it a tad to clinical at times for my taste. I do prefer a little more depth and flair to my writing, although, with such an intense story I can see how a simplistic writing style would appeal to many.
The pace was fast and engaging with the reader needing to know how Charlie escapes, how she even begins to recover. It certainly did not take me long to finish it. This may not have been my style of book overall but I do recommend it to those who are interesting in an accurate depiction of psychological trauma and how it attests not just the victim, but many more. I give The Way Back three stars.