Monday, November 1, 2010

[Review] Missing girl by Norma Fox Mazer

Title: Missing Girl
Author: Norma Fox Mazer
Publication: July 2008
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Review Copy: PB, for review (Thanks A&U!)
Pages: 260
Series: Standalone
My Rating:

This is the story of five sisters.

Beauty longs for love.
Mim holds a secret tightly.
Stevie is tempestuous and impulsive.
Fancy talks too much and understands too little.
And Autumn, the youngest sister, struggles to discover who she is.

None of the Herbert girls is aware of the mild-looking man who has become obsessed with them - until the day one sister doesn't come home.

My thoughts: 

Missing Girl is a realistic portrayal of an "innocent" obsession that goes a little too far; it's quite scary how believable it all was. In its contemporary prose and unconventional alternating perspectives among three of the five sisters in this seemingly tight-knit family, Missing Girl hit all the right notes.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to the man who is excited because in taking a new route to work, he has found a group of girls, "birds", to observe and welcome him (though they do not acknowledge his existence until later) every morning. He seems normal enough. Of course, from reading the synopsis, it is known that there is something off about him, but for now he just verges on a little bit creepy. As the novel progresses, we gain more and more insight into the life of this man: how pathetic his life is, how these girls who he has become obsessed with are so stuck in his mind that he's even pondering their nicknames as he works in his cubicle at his office 9-to-5 job.

Interweaving the exploration of the man, we are also given the grand tour into the lives of the family, who include: the parents, Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy and Autumn. I really really wish this novel were longer, so Mazer could have taken more time to develop their characters. I think they really did have potential, it fell a bit flat. I still engaged with them--it just could've been more so.

Beauty is the oldest of the girls, and she is practically in love with love. She's never been in a relationship, and is horrifically awkward when it comes to talking to her new crush (because she saw him walking by on the same street, which swoops her into fantasy mode of their futures), Ethan. In this respect, Mazer really did downgrade her age; she could have been fourteen or twelve with the level of maturity she holds sometimes.

Mim is the "quiet" one, who "holds a secret tightly". I think I could have really liked the arc of her character, if the idea was followed through with more depth. It was pretty much just a brief discussion between Beauty and Mim, and Mim tells her secret to her.

Stevie, well, I don't really remember much about her. Except that she changed her name to Stevie, because she didn't like how girly her real name was. She's loud and tempestuous. I didn't like her too much. There wasn't enough to draw me to be overly sympathetic with her situation, that affected everyone else in the family. (trying not to spoil things here!)

Fancy is quite annoying. She talks way too much, and speaks like a seven year old or something, despite that she's twelve. You know seven-year-olds just go on and on, circling around one trivial issue? That's Fancy. That's all I'll say about her, because she pretty much has nothing except dumbness and being grossly verbose. (Also, she blames Autumn for getting lost; Fancy wants to go to school so her teacher will praise her being such a good girl, but no. Fancy only thinks of herself, and how her sister's disappearance is affecting her)

Autumn, the youngest at eleven years of age. She is still very much so a child, but she can be mature, too. I'm lukewarm about her character.

~ possible spoilers ~

What really convinced me that this book was a 4 star, and not a 3.5, was the amount to which it affected me emotionally. From the moment (one of the girls) gets taken away by the man; from that moment on, I was just like wow. I was appalled by the actions of the man: slimy and disgusting and creepy and a whole lot of other negative adjectives. I was so so devastated by how such an innocent act, an innocent mistake led _____ to that street, to that man, into that door; halfway through the period of her entrapment, I was literally screaming at the book, "SMASH THE WINDOW AND JUMP!!!" I became so emotionally invested in the novel, and the situation, that I caught myself getting teary when the man STILL wouldn't let her go, was STILL believing that what he was doing was innocent and righteous; that she came to him, like she fricken-wanted to be there despite all her tears and yelling and thrashing about. Also, there's this moment near the end of thenovel that brought goosebumps to form all along my arms. It was simply so, so good.

~ end spoilers ~

Missing Girl is a short read that explores such a pressing issue that is still occurring in our community, and for the most part, Mazer beautifully conveyed the true essence of a family; how one little action can lead to something disastrous, and that everyone is lost.

If you're a parent who wants to scare their children into never ever speaking to strangers, give them this book.

He told you not to cry, but tears keep leaking out of your eyes. And you're glad, because those tears belong to you. They're yours. Your tears. He can't have them. He can't touch them. They're all yours. (p. 172)

Live in Australia?
Fishpond | Readings | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson | Borders | The Nile

Live elsewhere?
Amazon | The Book Depository

I am in no way affiliated with the above sites, nor with Mazer or the publisher. I do not receive any money for reviewing or linking.

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