Monday, June 30, 2008

The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer

This novel, like Lisa McMann's Wake, is nominated for Best Book for Young Adults. It will, unfortunately, not be receiving my vote as it fell flat in its attempt to stand out.

The story is told through four different points of view. First there is "the man" who has an obsession with five sisters. He watches them on the street as he goes to work, daydreaming about them although never going into any detail about what he might do with them. Then there is the oldest sister, Beauty, sharing her view of wanting more than the little town of Mallory. She dreams of heading to Chicago and making something of her life, or, at the very least, having a boyfriend like her younger sister Stevie. The third point of view is Fancy, the special needs sister who doesn't fully comprehend what is happening. The last, and most important narrator, is Autumn, the youngest sister to whom the main conflict occurs.

In terms of the actual plot, The Herbert family is struggling with money since the father fell off a roof and hurt his back. The five sisters go through their daily life, hoping everything falls into place, completely unaware that someone is watching them. In order to make/save some money, the family decides to "lend" one daughter, Stevie, to their aunt. On the day Stevie is supposed to leave, Autumn goes for a walk and ends up lost. She asks a man she met at the duck pond for help, but he's more interested in helping himself than her. Before she knows it, she's his hostage and her family is frantically looking for her.

The story has a lot of potential, but I don't feel that the author pulled it off. The different points of view led the story to be choppy. It takes a long time for the plot to actually take shape, probably due to character development, but, at the same time, it felt as though there wasn't enough development. The story didn't flow as smoothly as it could. At the same time, because of the chunking, it felt like there needed to be more action and thought. I wanted to know more of her experience. What did he really do to her? There needed to be more depth to the story to make it as powerful as I feel the author wanted. "The man" also wasn't as threatening as I feel he could have been. It all seemed too easy.

This book turned out to be a disappointment. For being nominated as a Best Book, I expected more power behind the story. The choppiness of the format overall left it lacking.

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