“All The Missing Girls” is author Megan Miranda’s first adult fiction book, trying her hand in something other than young adult. This mystery/thriller follows as Nicolette Farrell returns to her small hometown to help her brother convince their ailing father to sell their house in order to pay his bills, having mysteriously spent nearly all his money. When Nicolette returns home, she is plagued by memories of her best friend, who had gone missing nearly ten years ago to the day, and shortly after arriving, another young woman mysteriously vanishes into the woods. For as intriguing as that premise sounds, for as thrilling as the promise of that story and plot line are, it just never reached that pinnacle I was longing for, and I disliked almost every single one of the main characters.
I promise not to give anything away in case you do want to read this book, for I seem to be in the minority in just not liking it. But the book took an idea that sounded intriguing on paper (ha) and wrote it in a style that was probably meant to be unique and edgy, and then the whole thing kind of fell flat at the end when the mystery is solved. Miranda tells the story backwards. Yes, backwards. After giving the reader a brief background on why Nicolette doesn’t want to return to her small town and who she is, that she’s engaged and left home and never really looked back, the story flashes forward to “two weeks later” showing us this creepy scene that makes you want to know what the heck happened to get to that point, and then the next chapter is “two weeks earlier”. Every chapter after that is a countdown, aiming to get to the day it all “started”, and piecing together the mystery of Nicolette’s friend who went missing ten years ago, and the new girl that went missing shortly after she arrived.
At first, yeah, that’s cool, and there are moments and sections where I was really interested and it had intriguing twists, but the novelty wears off, and fast, when you already know something has happened, and then the next chapter is just how this thing you already knew actually happened. It makes the story drag out in places and makes it easy to forget what happened, or if something had, or hadn’t, been covered yet. Then the end comes, all the pieces are put in place, and the thing that was meant to be a mystery just isn’t much of one. I don’t mean that the end wasn’t a surprise, it sort of was, but it wasn’t a surprise to Nicolette, THAT’S THE SURPRISE, that it’s not surprising. She was painted as an unreliable narrator which would have been interesting if she was unreliable. Instead, the author paints it as Nicolette had no idea what happened, not that she knew and was just trying to hide the truth.
Normally, these “ah ha! Gotcha!” moments are supposed to blow away the reader, but I was underwhelmed and just felt lied to, like the author was purposely trying to waste my time. I did not like that. Especially as there are several loose ends that get missed or just plain forgotten about due to the style of the writing.
Maybe I’d have been more willing to go along with the ride if I had liked Nicolette, but almost from the start, I just did not like her. Because the story is told in reverse, at first she comes off as this whiny person who is stuck in the past, never able to let go of what happened a decade ago. Then you start learning things and ok, maybe she’s not so whiny, but then she turns into a bitch. You never really feel like she herself was a great person to begin with, but she tries to justify it as other people were terrible friends to her first. I may be alone in that, which is fine, you can’t please everyone all the time, but I found her to be flat because the emotional complexity she’s supposed to have just made her unlikable.
I promise I am not spoiling the end, I’ll say that up front, but I did not like the end. All the pieces fall into place, the mystery is revealed, you know who did what and why (kind of, I guess), and then the people responsible get away! The bad guys win! I hate stories like that! If it had been handled differently (I can’t say how without spoilers, sorry), then maybe them getting away wouldn’t have felt even more like I wasted my time, but as it stood, the perpetrators not only get away, they also get a “happy ending”. Very frustrating, and not in a good way where a mystery ends and the law fails because of mistakes or whatever, I can get over those, this is the kind of frustrating ending that left me simply annoyed.
There was nothing wrong with the writing, though. Megan Miranda is a great writer and there are certain parts of her book that are downright eerie, but that couldn’t save this book, either. You can tell she writes primarily young adult, for even though her characters are all around thirty, they still act like impulsive teenagers straight out of high school, which had me rolling my eyes, hard, more often than I care to in my mystery/thrillers. Because of the flat (and unlikable) characters, the disappointing ending, and the twist that just left me aggravated, I’m giving this a 2 out of 5 stars, sorry everyone…