Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer

Title: The Missing Girl
Author: Norma Fox Mazer
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date Published: January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: My darling Zooey from Dahl's Doll! :D

This is the story of five sisters—Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy, and Autumn—and the man who watches them. He could be any ordinary man . . . but he's not. Unaware of his scrutiny and his increasingly forbidden thoughts about them, the sisters go on with their ordinary lives—planning, arguing, laughing, and crying—as if nothing bad could ever breach the security of their family. In alternating points of view, Norma Fox Mazer manages to interweave the lives of predator and prey in this unforgettable psychological thriller.

My Review:
I got this book from one of my best friends in the world and she has REALLY similar taste to me so I was thrilled to start The Missing Girl! I hadn't heard anything about it and found myself intrigued not only by the premise but the mystery and sheer creeptastic-ness of the cover. The chilling sense of forboding is present from page one, with the opening scene reflecting the somewhat sinister thoughts of "the man", and continues throughout the novel until the stress and terror is almost too much to bear. Even during the first half of the book there is an undercurrent of tension...of an eerie unease that persists throughout each of the girl's voices as the point of view transitions from first to second to third person and back again. Mazer really made it challenging on herself by attempting to create the minds and complexities of 5 different narrators and I thought she succeeded amazingly well. 

To be honest, I felt like the characters were a little irritating. Autumn was the exception in a family of odd names and personalities. I have this horrible prejudice against names. When a character's name is ridiculous, I tend to not identify with them which leads to me not enjoying the book so much. Even though I hate to admit it, I have actually turned down review requests simply based on not liking the name of the main character. Granted, the name was some god-awful creation like...Blissephanie or some crap like that...but still...the stupider the name, the more likely I am to consider the character to be stupid, or even lose interest in a book altogether. With names like Beauty, Mim, Fancy, and Stevie...I actually had to cringe and force my way through my intro to the characters. I knew that the plot was something I would really enjoy, but it took SO much willpower to get over the names...Fancy? Beauty? Really? I half expected the clocks and candlesticks to jump up and start singing "Be Out Guest" which definitely isn't the tone the author was going for in a book about kidnapping. Eventually I was able to overlook the names and take the characters for who and what they were and was able to discover really interesting insights in all of their thoughts. 

I admit that I had a LOT of trouble keeping the sisters straight. Though the changing points of view added an interesting dynamic to the story, it also served to confuse the crap of me and have me mixing up sisters as late as 3/4 though the book. Beauty is the oldest and she struggles to deal with feelings of self-hatred and depression mixing with her protectiveness towards her sisters and her desire to leave her small town and create a life for herself. Fancy is mentally handicapped but views the world in a really interesting and emotional way. Stevie is harsh and aggressive but loves her sisters fiercely. Overall you get a sense that the sisters are each other's rocks, where the parents are kind of in their own little world.  As characters, they created a kind of mesh that encompassed a ton of different aspects of being teenagers and I really enjoyed seeing the events from each of their perspectives. Speaking of perspectives, this review wouldn't be complete without reference to the man. We don't learn his name til the very end of the book, and he is without a doubt one of the creepiest antagonists I've read. He seems to have mental issues, but sticks to his own code about right and wrong, and I really enjoyed his scenes. They are cold, calculating, and just this side of freaky. 

Though it deals with hard issues, I felt that the story was resolved in kind of a pathetic way. There just wasn't as much tension and terror involved in the climax of the story as I was expecting. We spend the first 200 pages building anticipation for a huge event of some kind and when the actual events play out it leaves a lot to be desired plot-wise. The story doesn't fail to leave you chilled to your bones, but you do end up coming away lacking something. It was a very quick read that keeps you engaged while reading it and keeps popping up in your head later. 
As to be expected, the Missing Girl was a very dark kind of story that was interwoven with just enough happiness and hope to make it an enjoyable read despite the depravity. I think it plays on a lot of the fears we have in society today. We have changed monsters like vampires and werewolves into something to be admired while we have turned inwards to see the true monsters and demons. Issues like pedophilia, kidnapping, rape, etc. are even more terrifying fears than the monsters that wait in the dark because unlike those mystical beasties...these monsters are real and can happen to those you care about. I enjoyed The Missing Girl, but something was...well...Missing. It's just this side of childish and I doubt I would ever re-read it or bother looking for another book by Norma Fox Mazur. Try this out if you find it at a library or used book store, but don't run out and spend full price on it anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. I totally looked at this when I was at the library the other day and I couldn't decide if I wanted to check it out or not. It sounded like it might be a good suspense but also a bit too creepy. I ended up putting it back and after reading your review I'm glad I did. Doesn't sound right for me!