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Payback: The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor    by Melody Carlson order for
by Melody Carlson
Order:  USA  Can
Multnomah, 2008 (2008)

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* * *   Reviewed by Jessica Weaver

I was incredibly disappointed to learn that Payback is the final installment in Melody Carlson's Secret Life of Samantha McGregor series. The main character has won a place in my heart over the last year or so. Carlson finishes the series with gusto in this fourth young adult novel about Samantha.

Sam is once again gifted with visions and must work with her deceased father's police partner, Ebony, to figure out what in the world is going on. After a vision that Samantha is positive is a terrorist killing at a prom, the teen is unable to enjoy her junior year and instead is dragged around to several proms and snooping missions at other high schools. In the midst of all of this, Samantha has a vision that leads her to suspect her mother's new, younger boyfriend is not what he seems to be. Should Sam risk alienating her mom more in order to help her avoid a huge mistake?

Carlson is a master author; whether she writes for children, teens, or adults, her books always hit home and are thoroughly enjoyable. Her teen characters are not trite and she never backs away from a tough issue, whether it's Payback's theme of bullying, or her other books' focuses on drugs, homosexuality, and suicide. I feel like Carlson truly understands teenagers and tries to develop books that will allow teens to grow as Christians, while also enjoying what they are reading. As an adult, I found this book impossible to lay down, gripping all the way through.

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