I don’t think I’ve written a book review since I was at high school, and even then it was reluctantly written as part of my higher coursework. I absolutely used to love reading when I was younger, and loved nothing better than a book that got under your skin or into your heart. However I didn’t always feel like I could put into words the amount of enjoyment from any given book.
I’m giving it a go now, as a book hasn’t gripped me as much as Jenny Quintana’s The Missing Girl in a long, long time. Part of that might have something to do with the fact that I’ve not read at this rate in a long time either, but I digress!
The debut novel by Quintana is a mystery, unfolded by Anna Flores, sister of a missing girl. The basic premise is – without giving away any spoilers – that a pre-teen Anna dotes on her older sister Gabriella. She seems well liked in her local village, and is the most beautiful girl ever, according to her younger sister. As the title suggests, one day Gabriella goes missing, simply disappearing without a trace.
30 years later, the girls’ mother passes away, and Anna makes a return to her hometown to bury her mother and hopefully dig up some clues and solve the mystery as to what happened to her sister back in 1982. After a lot of suspicion, possibilities and theories, the mystery is finally solved at the very end.
There are quite a few things I love about this book, both in terms of the actual plot of the story and the way it was written. Quintana opted for a split chronological narrative, with chapters alternating between 1982 and 2012. This adds to the tension as you know that at some point 1982 Gabriella is going to go missing, but you don’t know the how’s and the why’s. Similarly it helps build up a better character picture, as you almost feel like you’re reliving the memories with Anna.
The other thing that I really enjoyed was how the story was completely told from the viewpoint of Anna Flores. This meant Quintana hopped between the thoughts, feelings and understandings of the situation as both an adult and a 12 year old girl. She captures the essence of a pre-pubescent girl perfectly, giving an insight as to how a young girl in the 80s perceives everything from relationships between family and friends to understanding arguments and reasoning.
Considering I’ve not been much of a reader in the past decade (I blame uni textbooks, they were enough to put anyone off), I genuinely couldn’t put this novel down. I devoured it in just 2 weeks, which when you consider I also have a demanding 4 month old baby, is some testament to the author. Completely gripping to the last page, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a book that keeps you on your toes and guessing every possible theory.