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The Second Life of Ava Rivers

Faith Gardner


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"Deeply compelling."--BCCB

"A beautiful, moving, and thoughtful story about how far we're willing to go for family."
-Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces

Vera Rivers' life is split in two: before her twin sister Ava disappeared twelve years ago and after.

Before was hot Junes and ice cream trucks, dancing in sprinklers, loud Christmas mornings and pancakes on Saturdays. The after is everything else: police officers, investigators, tips, theories, leads, but never any answers. The case made headlines, shocked Vera's Northern California community, and turned her family into tragic celebrities.

Now, at eighteen, Vera is counting down the days until she starts her new life at college in Portland, Oregon, far away from the dark cloud she and her family have lived under for twelve years. But all that changes when a girl shows up at the local hospital.

Her name is Ava Rivers and she wants to go home.

Ava's return begins to mend the fractures in the Rivers family. Vera and Ava's estranged older brother returns. Vera reconnects with Max, the sweet, artistic boy from her childhood. Their parents smile again. But the questions remain: Where was Ava all these years? And who is she now?

Powerful and gripping, The Second Life of Ava Rivers is equal parts thriller, mystery, and haunting meditation on grief, family, and forgiveness.

Praise For The Second Life of Ava Rivers

“This remarkable novel reproduces the personal and family trauma associated with the loss and recovery of a missing child . . . The Second Life of Ava Rivers is an enthralling tale.” –VOYA, starred review 

"Gardner’s unforgettable voice blends Jodi Picoult’s emotional, ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling with Mindy McGinnis’s unflinchingly honest protagonists. Gardner’s gorgeous language and the atmospheric tone makes this a well-crafted, genre-defying story that deserves a wide readership." –Booklist, starred review

"Fans of The Face on the Milk Carton and Room will revel in this book’s generous supply of suspense."–Publishers Weekly 

“A deftly written examination of familial relationships, trauma, and post-adolescence.”—Kirkus

“Missing kid books aren’t rare, but Gardner brings a unique tenderness to this one; Vera is a deeply compelling narrator of this strange experience that no one, even her parents, can really understand the way she does…The book has its surprises, but it remains firmly focused on the human dynamics of creating family and individual identity in the face of tragedy.”BCCB, starred review

"A beautiful, moving, and thoughtful story about how far we're willing to go for family."
– Kathleen Glasgow, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces 

“A poignant, haunting story about being lost and found, about secrets, sisters, grief, and the redemptive power of forgiveness—The Second Life of Ava Rivers will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”
– Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be
“Raw, heartfelt, and ultimately redemptive. A captivating story about grief, trauma, and healing.”
– Kerry Kletter, acclaimed author of The First Time She Drowned. 

Razorbill, 9780451478306, 368pp.

Publication Date: August 28, 2018

About the Author

Faith Gardner is the author of the young adult novel Perdita. Her short fiction has been published in places like ZYZZYVA, PANK and McSweeney's online. She lives in the Bay Area. Visit Faith online at and follow her on twitter @iamfaithgardner.