The Missing Girl
The nameless man watches the five Herbert sisters as they flock to school, chattering to each other. The man loves the chatter. He loves the sight of the innocent girls. They don't notice him, which he believes is a good thing. He wants to blend into the background and continue to obsess over them.
The Herbert family, never prosperous, has fallen on hard times. Poppy, the father, can't work due to an injury, and Mommy's job in a nursing home kitchen doesn't cover the expenses of a family of seven. The parents struggle with finances and depression. Seventeen-year-old Beauty Herbert (who hates the irony of her name because she knows she’s plain) works after school at a flower shop. She contributes to the family but plans her escape from them the minute she turns 18. She is determined to shake off the dust of their small town and find opportunity elsewhere.
Still, Beauty worries about her sisters. Will she be able to actually leave them? There's quiet and responsible 16-year-old Mim, who should be fine without Beauty (although Beauty doesn't know Mim's enormous secret yet). Fourteen-year-old Faithful has changed her name to Stevie. Stevie is a temperamental, wild disaster who wears the family out with her loud dramatic outbursts. To Beauty, Stevie seems headed for calamity, especially after Beauty spies her making out with a boy.
Fancy is 12 years old physically, although she will always be younger mentally. The family dotes on her, and she loves her special education classes. Fancy talks into her new tape recorder, dictating a free-flowing ramble of thoughts and ideas whenever she wants to chatter but no one has time to listen to her.
We meet 11-year-old Autumn as she tries to convince her mother that she’s way too sick to go to school. Autumn has problems with her classes and, at the school counselor's urging, tries to write down her most private thoughts in a journal.
Beauty, Autumn and Fancy relay their stories to readers, telling us about their teachers, hopes, dreams and problems. One sister struggles with fluctuating powerful crushes, and the difference between real and fantasy relationships. Author Norma Fox Mazer, using various points of view (first, second and third), gets the girls' voices pitch-perfect. The setup, as well as the telling title, is an ominous backdrop to the family story as we become acquainted with the characters. We know these girls, and we're terrified for them as we learn more about the man who is watching them (a man who is proud that he killed countless pets until he finally found the perfect, obedient ones to keep). He inches closer to the Herbert sisters --- and we forget to breathe as we turn each page.
Mazer handles the dark theme of THE MISSING GIRL expertly, weaving empowerment, family love and hope into a tale that is likely to haunt readers long after the book is read.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on February 5, 2008
The Missing Girl
- Publication Date: January 19, 2010
- Genres: Psychological Thriller
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- ISBN-10: 0064473651
- ISBN-13: 9780064473651