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Missing by Kelley Armstrong

BOTTOM LINE: Different, realistic, sad, but yet powerful, it is the type of story that allows you to block out the world for a few hours and experience someone else’s.

Genre: Young Adult; Mystery & Suspense; Romance
Publication Date: 18 April 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

What Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?”

My Thoughts: A story like Kelley Armstrong’s latest novel, Missing, is exactly why I love to read. For a few hours, it allowed me to forget about the world as I was completely caught up in Winter’s despair and her search for answers. Winter is a take-no-prisoners girl who knows what she wants and understands how the world operates. She is not a dreamer but a doer; while she has a horrible home life that forces her to take refuge in the woods, it is impossible to pity her because she does not want nor expect pity. Her matter-of-fact approach to life is refreshing in its lack of angst and emotional turbulence.

Winter is not out to save the world, but she does demand a world in which the rules are clear even if unfair. She also is fiercely loyal to those who are able to get past the barriers she has in place to protect her mind and heart. In fact, Winter may not be pitiable, but it is easy to sympathize with her. She is tough because that is the only way she can survive her father and the extremely poor, extremely small town she so desperately wants to flee. She has few friends and even fewer people upon whom she can rely. The fact that she is loyal to someone about whom she knows practically nothing makes sense when one realizes just how rare it is for her to find someone who believes in her and who makes her feel safe. Again, she is not someone to pity, but there are plenty of teens and adults who are just as lonely and alone and for whom a simple, genuine conversation means more than anything.

This is not a typical young adult novel in which the kids have to do everything because there is a noticeable absence of adults in their world. In fact, there are plenty of adult figures in Winter’s life, and they fall along the spectrum of helpful to infuriatingly dismissive just as they do in real life. There are reliable adult figures in her life who help her and provide her with a safe refuge, just as there are adult characters who see her as nothing more than a troublemaker upsetting the status quo. In spite of the presence of these adults, Winter never attempts to uncover answers on her own without first seeking the help of the proper authorities. She contacts all the right people and makes all of the right decisions we teach our children when it comes to authority figures. The presence of adults makes Missing a refreshing break from the typical YA novel.

The story itself is intriguing. After Winter finds Lennon in the trees and drags him to safety, the story takes off and never lets up in its intensity. What she uncovers is sinister, but it is also creative in that it forces readers to acknowledge the disparity of the wealth gap and the innate disadvantages built into the system for those without adequate means. Winter’s world is not Lennon’s world, and her shock at just how different they are echoes the reader’s shock. It would be easy to dismiss this disparity as purely fictional, but there is no doubt that communities like Reeve’s End do exist and that for many people, hunting is not just a hobby but a means of survival.

As far as young adult novels go, Missing is a breath of fresh air. Not only does the story revolve around a fiercely independent character who knows when to ask for help, it is ground in reality. There are no fantasy elements to draw a reader’s attention away from the poverty levels of Reeve’s End. There is no love triangle to distract readers from the fact that Winter does not know how to wear a dress because she has never owned one. It is these little details, brutal in their meaning, that gives the story weight and prevents it from being just another flighty YA story but rather one which is entirely, chillingly plausible.

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