Saturday, May 25, 2019

Book Review: "The Missing Season" by Gillian French

Clara is used to being the new girl, as her family moves quite often to follow her dad's construction jobs. But she's never a big fan of the adjustment period, waiting to see how people will treat her, whether she'll be the loner with no friends or be lucky and make a friend or two, only have to abandon the relationship when she moves away again. It never fails.

When she moves to Pender, a depressed New England town, she expects it to go the same way it always does. She's surprised when she strikes up a friendship with Bree and Sage, and they start including her in things, like cutting out of school to grab lunch, hanging out at the skate park to watch the boys—even some high-level pranks. She and Bree even have a crush on the same guy—the mysterious Kinkaid, who comes and goes as he pleases, breezing by on his skateboard.

The thing about Pender, though, is that kids have disappeared, or have been found dead through the years, particularly around Halloween. While the adults in town have a perfectly good explanation for these tragedies—drug overdose, getting hit by a freight train, running away from town—the kids have another explanation. They believe it's the work of the Mumbler, a monster man who lives out by the marshes, for whom they leave offerings from time to time.

People—including Kinkaid—say they've seen the Mumbler, but Clara doesn't believe the legend is true. However, she's starting to think something isn't quite right in town, especially when another girl from school disappears. In the midst of the chaos, she finds herself unable to resist Kinkaid's appeal, despite the problems it might cause in her friendship with Bree. But her desire to help Kinkaid solve his own problems may prove to be what harms the potential for their relationship to go anywhere.

As the town tries to figure out an explanation for the latest disappearance, Clara is starting to feel more afraid, but she doesn't know whom to fear—the Mumbler, or something worse, someone more real? And when another girl even closer to home goes missing, Clara finds herself in the middle of a dangerous situation—one she might not survive.

I thought The Missing Season had a very Stephen King-like vibe when I started reading it. You know, small New England town, unexplained disappearances, grisly deaths, etc.? But the book is more than just a story of a potential monster—it's a complex story about growing up, friendship, love, family, and the decision whether or not to speak up when things don't seem right.

I felt this sense of impending doom as I read this book, and French really did a great job with her imagery, as the whole book seemed very dark and creepy. Like I do with most mysteries and thrillers, I suspected absolutely everyone, and while I'll admit I wasn't thrilled with the ending, I thought this was a really compelling read. I liked the balance of YA and mystery/thriller very much.

This is scary but not too scary, and a good story to boot. If you like this genre, pick up The Missing Season. And stay away from the marsh!!

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