IN SEARCH OF THE ROSE NOTES begins with eleven-year-old friends, Nora and Charlotte, and their teenaged babysitter, Rose, investigating the paranormal through the Time-Life book series. When Rose disappears, Charlotte and Nora again turn to the otherworldly to search for clues. Nora suffers through her status as "last to see Rose alive" and escapes the oppressive hometown, while Charlotte stays right where she is. When Rose's body is found sixteen years later, Nora reluctantly returns home to stay with her estranged friend. Charlotte wants them to pick up their investigation where it left off, and they deal with Rose's loss in very different ways. The novel unfolds with flashbacks to 1990 interspersed with the events after Rose's body is found. The integration of past and present is very well-done and reflects Nora's reluctance to remember (or acknowledge) some of the questions she had when Rose disappeared.
As the mystery of Rose's fate unfolds, Charlotte and Nora's reunion proceeds with awkwardness realistic for two people who were once close. The differences between the two friends as children and as adults make this a particularly nuanced novel, and Arsenault's investigation into the adults children become is fascinating and not intrusive. This is a well-plotted mystery and a unique coming-of-age story. My only complaint is the title, which implies that there are some notes that are the subject of a search. I will spare you the annoyance of wondering when these notes might be mentioned by telling you that they aren't the focus of the novel's unfolding plot.
Source disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.