I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
I’ll admit, there was a piece of me that was hesitant about this book. I’d read THE GIRL WHO STAYED relatively recently, and had been somewhat underwhelmed by the experience. Also, the story was apparently told a bit like the movie Memento–going backward from Day 15 of the plot arc to Day 1. (This is a touch misleading. We’re given a bit of insight to the beginning of the debacle before we are thrust two weeks in the future, and then we return to current day at the end. But.)
So this GIRL WHO STAYED meets Tarantino/Memento book was staring at me from NetGalley, taunting me with its fascinating description of two missing girls, an interesting plot device for storytelling, and the promise of a Big Twist at the end. I figured why not, let’s give it a go.
Nicolette Farrell (usually called Nic) left her tiny hometown in the aftermath of her best friend Corinne vanishing without a trace. She desperately tried to leave the small-town gossip mentality of Cooley Ridge behind her, carving a new name for herself in the big city. (I believe Philly. Could be wrong.) But when her father’s health begins to fail and the family house becomes a conversation point for the future, Nic needs to come back and face the ghosts in order to truly move on.
All the old gang (and suspects in Corinne’s disappearance) are still in town, never having left. Her brother married and lives down the way. Corinne’s old boyfriend Jackson is a bartender. Nic’s old flame Tyler is dating someone new, an acquaintance from back in the day named Annaleise Carter.
Not long after Nic arrives again, Annaleise goes missing–just like Corinne. They’re all back under the spotlight, and Nic’s sudden reappearance is incredibly suspicious.
I will admit, much like Memento, I had significant difficulty following the plot of the book. It’s likely because I read too fast, but I lose the specific details after I read them, so when I needed to call them back up (“has this happened…? Okay, that conversation was back then, but how long after this one is it? When did Nic say she lost that thing first? Um…”) they were gone. I’ll take that solely on my shoulders and not as a reflection of the book. But still, it’s not an easy way to tell the story.
It does raise the tension a good amount, since Day 15 is pretty dramatic from what little you know at that point, and it just becomes more and more baffling as time goes…back? I liked it, even if I didn’t follow it well. The trouble I really had with the book was the eventual climax and ending. It brought back a lot of the same feelings I had with WITH MALICE, complete with unreliable narrators and uncertain timelines. Maybe it’s because I’d read the other book so recently, but by the time we’d entered Part 3 and returned to the present from our Tarantino-ian adventure, I knew what had happened. I knew how it had to end–and I was right. For a book which claimed that it would completely flip us upside down and inside out, I was a little disappointed. (Thinking about it now, there are a lot of shades of IN THE WOODS in here, too.) I’d wanted more from it, and seeing everything I’d hoped for dashed on the stones was sad. Not that I was surprised at some of the reactions (particularly from Nic’s fiancé Everett, though I was most distressed about that one) but just disheartened by it.
In addition to this, the more we see of Corinne, the less of a sympathetic character she becomes. I’d fairly well given up on any interest I had in her early on, and didn’t really care why she’d vanished because everyone seemed to be better off this way. I’ve had more than my fair share of Friends Like Her, and I don’t ever want to go back.
All in all, I was pleased with some elements of the book, and thoroughly disappointed in others. Miranda has a deft hand at writing, however, and the prose in the book is excellent. I won’t say I’m surprised that I saw that this is her first book for adults–not because of any of the writing, just because given the timelines, there’s a lot of focus on the characters at younger ages, and even more of the characters still having the maturity level of their decade-younger selves.
It may not be “unlike anything I’ve ever read before,” but I’m not asking for my time back. I’d be interested to see what Miranda does in the future with her work.
Rating: ***1/2 (Well Worth a Look) — rounded up to 4 on Goodreads et al.
ALL THE MISSING GIRLS hit shelves yesterday, June 28th, 2016.