Review: ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda

Told in reverse-chronological order, All the Missing Girls is a thrilling riddle that weaves together flowing, provocative prose, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clues, and the question of whether we can ever escape the past.

Ten years ago, Nic Farrell left her life and her secrets behind in her small home town of Cooley Ridge after her best friend Corinne disappeared. When Nic has to return to help her ailing father, Corinne’s unsolved case and the past threaten to consume her.

Annaliese Carter—Nic’s neighbor and her friends’ alibi for the night Corinne disappeared—goes missing just days after Nic arrives in Cooley Ridge.

Nic works to confront the secrets of the past, to discover what happened to Annaliese in the hopes that it leads to Corinne. But sometimes you have to go backward before you can go forward. Sometimes, there are secrets that shouldn’t be uncovered.

20160804_184724-01The backwards storytelling is a daring move that Miranda pulls off exceedingly well. As a reader, it can be a bit disorienting, but that only adds to the drama. It’s unique reading experience that complements and highlights the themes of the novel.

While this was certainly a clever format, I actually thought the most impressive and intriguing aspect of the novel was Nic’s narration. Miranda channels a voice that is simultaneously charismatic and discomforting. The writing is hypnotic in its rhythm and style. The prose flows seamlessly, but there’s also a haunted tone that makes the reading experience unsettling. The line between those styles is fine, but Miranda treads it perfectly

That balance reveals the depths of Nic’s character. With her two degrees, city lifestyle, and perfect fiancee, she’s worked hard to shed her life in Cooley Ridge. But Corinne’s disappearance and the secrets of that night—secrets she both fears and wants to learn—keep her from cutting the ties to her past. The psychology of the character is fascinating.

As she struggles to understand the events of ten years ago and to unravel the mystery of her present, Nic is consumed by her fears, her doubts, and her uncertainty. The effect is that the reader is always on edge, questioning Nic and every character.

IMG_8806-01Just when I would start to become sure someone’s innocent, Nic uncovers or reveals a detail that would send that belief spiraling. Then the novel jumps back a day, and everything has to re-evaluated. The changing combinations of what information the reader knows and what Nic knows creates a dizzying effect. The truth becomes increasingly harder to pin down, and the feeling of needing to find out lasts until the last page.

All the Missing Girls is a novel that demands staying up too late to finish. The sleep deprivation will be worth it for the thrilling ending.

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