By Ekta R. Garg
July 13, 2016
Rated: Bypass it
When a woman returns to her hometown to help her brother take care of their ailing father, she must face the tragedy that forced her to leave in the first place. As she deals with her father’s bad health and the people from home, she’ll learn that even moving several states away isn’t enough to keep her past from her. Megan Miranda tries to wow readers in her first adult novel with an unusual setup in the vapid, self-absorbed book All the Missing Girls.
Nicolette “Nic” Farrell got the chance ten years ago to leave Cooley Ridge, North Carolina, and she took it. Nic’s best friend, Corinne, disappeared ten years earlier, and no one ever found her. As rumor spread like wildfire in Cooley Ridge, Nic left town and found a new life in Philadelphia. But the small town’s vise doesn’t lose its grip on her. Now in her late twenties, Nic must come back to North Carolina for her father.
Her brother, Daniel, has urged her to come. The previous year Nic and Daniel put their father in an assisted living facility, and Daniel has run out of money. He needs help fixing up their childhood home to put it on the market, but more than that he needs Nic’s help in convincing their father that selling the house is the right move.
Nic arrives in Cooley Ridge, rolls up her sleeves, and gets to work on the house. Her father doesn’t prove to be such an easy task, but she does her best to talk to him. Then another young girl from town goes missing, and Nic feels like time has rolled backwards to the horror of Corinne’s disappearance. What follows is a story in reverse, starting from the last day of Nic’s trip and working its way to her first day. It’s the only way, Nic tells readers, that she can process the entire situation and come face to face with what happened to both girls.
Author Megan Miranda has published several young adult novels, and All the Missing Girls is her first novel for adults. Unfortunately the book reads more like a novel for and about young adults. Because Miranda chooses to let Nic lead as the first-person narrator, readers never really get to know any of the other characters. Nic does all the talking, and she spends copious amounts of time describing just how serious the situation is.
She also spends too much time trying to convince readers of the importance of a tragedy. While platitudes may offer weight to a story, the number in Nic’s repertoire will make the book feel clunky. It’s not hard to believe that a best friend’s disappearance can have a deep impact on a person. Nic takes the meaning of “impact” to a completely different realm, however.
The result is a protagonist who comes across as self-involved and self-absorbed. From Nic’s observations, Corinne’s disappearance really revolves around Nic and not Corinne herself. Even their friendship has more to do with Nic and how much Corinne meant to her both in good ways and bad.
The entire approach feels more suited to a story about teenagers. Everything else about Nic’s life seems fine: successful fiancé, a steady job that pays well, and a new place to live in Philadelphia far away from the events of a decade earlier. Most people with so many positive variables would find it possible to move on from a tragedy. Nic seems to revel in that time period.
As is often the case with YA novels, here, too, serendipity plays a major role in the unraveling of Corinne’s disappearance. A perpetrator who spends most of the book in the background gets thrust into the limelight in a clumsy effort to keep readers guessing. Miranda’s choice in storytelling—going through the story backwards—will entertain readers for a while, but in many places the emotion feels misplaced, the tension ratcheting up against the timeline.
Despite the fact that Miranda’s book does tick off some of the boxes in the “thriller” category, I recommend readers Bypass All the Missing Girls.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)