Charlotte is heading to a tiger sanctuary to do some voluntary work as part of her travels. But a fellow traveller working at the sanctuary starts to make her feel uncomfortable and she decides to ask Otto to visit her, pretending to be her boyfriend. When things start going wrong at the sanctuary, Charlotte fears a vendetta against her could be to blame. As tigers come under attack from poachers, the local authorities threaten to replace the sanctuary's management. Mark the journalist reappears, ostensibly covering the poaching crisis, but also delving into the background of the traveller who is making Charlotte's life a misery. But by now Otto and Charlotte's 'fake' relationship seems to be developing into something a little more serious...and how will Mark, and Otto's ex, Jen, feel about that?
The Stranger’ is the sequel to Sarah Singleton’s fantastic novel ‘The Island’, featuring teenagers Otto, Charlotte and Jen. I read the latter last year and really enjoyed it. Not only was it a fast-paced and exciting read but it also introduced me to a brand new award-winning British author who I’ve been looking forward to reading more of. Therefore, when I saw this book in my local library I grabbed it straight away.
The story begins with Otto, Charlotte and Jen still in India, but having gone their separate ways at the end of the first book, they’re now scattered across the country. When Charlotte is involved in a train crash on her way back to her work placement at a Tiger sanctuary, a series of events are set in motion that draw the three friends back together. Charlotte is shadowed by the mysterious Jack, who was also involved in the crash and now seems to think that they share a special bond. Otto is dealing with his new feelings about his best friend and Jen is still trying to find her place in the world, whilst immersing herself in her spiritual bond with India.
One of the things I particularly like about Singleton’s writing style is how fresh and modern it is and how realistic the plot lines of her stories are, drawing on events that really happen. ‘The Stranger’ incorporates issues such as animal poaching and animal protection, stalking and obsession, as well as wider themes such as environmentalism and preservation of the planet. There are some wonderfully vivid descriptions of India and this helped me to imagine more clearly the characters' surroundings and lives.
The viewpoints of the three main characters are told in alternating chapters, although the main focus is on Charlotte. She was actually my favourite character from the first book too so I liked getting to hear more about her and seeing events through her eyes and from her standpoint. She has lots of appealing qualities and she’s the most grounded of the three friends, in terms of the fact that she knows what she wants to do and she’s steadfast, loyal and courageous. I struggled slightly with the chapters about Jen as she’s much more complex and very involved in the spiritual side of life. I did find that I was skipping through these quite quickly to try and get back to Charlotte and Otto. Also, although she does end up having a significant role to play in resolving the plot, at times I found her quite superfluous to the action. I was pleased that the relationship between Otto and Charlotte was developed further (I was waiting for some romance between the two of them!) and this added an additional angle to the story.
Whilst I was reading ‘The Stranger’ I was continually trying to guess what was going to happen next and I was on tenterhooks, wondering what was really going on with the sinister Jack. He was pretty creepy and quite scary at times and he worked well as a continual menacing presence in the background throughout. If you like your books full of mystery and intrigue with an exciting storyline but also serious things to say about the world then this is the book for you. I'm looking forward to reading more by Sarah Singleton in the future.