I freaking loved this book. I picked it up with the intention of only reading a few pages before returning to the other book I was reading and could not put it down. I fell in love with the characters so fast and wanted nothing more than to keep living in their world.
This story focuses on two girls, Miranda (the protagonist) and Syd (her best friend). As you may have guessed based on the title of the novel, Syd goes missing, but she’s not missing. She leaves a note instructing Miranda not to look for her. Of course, Miranda, being the anxious little cookie that she is, can’t help but want to find her best friend, as I’m sure I would in her situation. New truths rise to the surface, drama ensues, and Miranda quickly finds herself in a series of new situations she never thought she’d be in.
Surprisingly, this coming of age novel was unlike many that I’ve read. The mystery elements mixed with shocking truths coming to the surface took felt necessary to the story and yet for me were rather unexpected. The author has a way with foreshadowing where the foreshadowing is definitely there in the book, but is not overbearing, as can sometimes be the case particularly with YA.
Miranda was a character that I can relate to, as someone who prefers not to make decisions and feels anxious about weird things. I’m not sure I would be friends with her, but I saw a lot of myself in her and found her thoughts and feelings generated more empathy and understanding from me. This was also true about almost all the other characters – Fountain did an excellent job of showing readers many sides of each character and demonstrating clearly through each character’s actions what they were feeling.
I grew to love Nick so much. His character development is stellar and I love that Fountain put so much work into his character. I was surprised by the side characters she chose to develop based on the introduction to the story. The beginning chapters felt like setting the scene for Syd’s disappearance, which was fitting as readers are aware of her departure based off the back cover of the book from the very beginning.
Transitions throughout the story felt smooth, and Fountain was able to keep the pace rolling along, timing the slow sections just right and moving to the next important plot point just as it felt like the scene was reaching it’s end. I don’t often notice myself feeling so satisfied with authors’ transitions as I did with this book, although perhaps I am more in tune with this since I’ve been reading slower paced books lately.
Normally I am put off by YA that talks as much about school and college as this one did, but this felt so warranted and essential to the plot. Fountain used school and college to draw out each characters’ insecurities and strengths. This felt like possibly the most relatable example of the uncertainties that occur with high school and college that I have ever read.
I loved the setting, the NM desert was integral to the plot. Also I don’t think I often read YA from the Southwest, and this story was all the more rich for that very specific culture that was intrinsic in Miranda’s family. Miranda’s Latina heritage is rich and beautiful, and Fountain focuses mostly on positive elements of her culture. Miranda has had her own set of struggles with coming from a mixed race background, but the author does a fantastic job of personalizing and universalizing Miranda’s problems so that they are not just her problems but are also very much owned by her. In other words, her problems are not hers because of her race, but rather in addition to all her other problems that stem from her identity of who she is and the choices that those she loves have made.
The discussion of sex in this book is perfect. The consent, the insecurities, the enjoyment, the confusion, the rejection, all of it was so good. The characters actually talked about their experience openly with each other!! The author gave them room to think about and talk about their emotions and insecurities.
The more I think about my experience reading this book, the more I fall even more in love with it. The best part about all of this is that none of these fantastic elements felt forced in any way. These were not added in by the author to check boxes, these were just genuine parts of these characters that made them who they were.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.