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Friday, January 17, 2014

The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

Title: The Longings of Wayward Girls
Author: Karen Brown
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 336
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher – The views expressed in my review are mine alone and I have received no compensation for these opinions.
My Rating: 3.5 Crowns

Synopsis: It’s an idyllic New England summer, and Sadie is a precocious only child on the edge of adolescence. It seems like July and August will pass lazily by, just as they have every year before. But one day, Sadie and her best friend play a seemingly harmless prank on a neighborhood girl. Soon after, that same little girl disappears from a backyard barbecue – and she is never seen again.

Twenty years pass, and Sadie is still living in the same quiet suburb. She’s married to a good man, has two beautiful children, and seems to have put her past behind her. But when a boy from her old neighborhood returns to town, the nightmares of that summer will begin to resurface, and its unsolved mysteries will finally become clear.

*Synopsis taken from the book jacket

My Review: Sadie is the type of girl I think a lot of us can identify with. Most of us went through that awkward period in the tween years where we felt like we didn’t fit in with anyone or anywhere. To make matters worse, her mother is beautiful and strangely distant, so she doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about how lost she feels.

The novel alternates chapters from the past and present, starting out with the report of a disappearance of a neighborhood girl, which took place a few years prior to the “past” segments of the books. As one can imagine, this event has the adults at the time pretty worried about what their kids are up to. In a world before cell phones, the threat of kidnapping seems more real and more likely to happen in some ways.

Several years after that first disappearance, after what seems like a set of innocent pranks, another girl in the neighborhood disappears. Sadie and her best friend posed as a local boy, writing letters to one of the girls they know, who opens up to “Hezekiah” in a kind of frightening way. Ultimately, Hezekiah asks the girl to meet him in the woods, and she’s never seen again.

The flashes to the present day reveal that as an adult, Sadie still feels somewhat responsible, but also understands things about those letters that she didn’t think anything of as a child. In some ways, the entirety of the present segments are Sadie finally fully understanding a series of tragic events that occurred that summer so long ago. As the reader, we get to learn more about other things going on in child Sadie’s life, understanding the events before she does.

At first, I found Sadie to be annoying and a bit pretentious, but as we learn more, I found myself sympathizing with her quite a bit. For a young girl, she had to deal with quite a few major events, and I can only imagine how difficult that would be and how it would affect the rest of your growing up.

This story is touching and realistic, yet still compelling enough to be a page turner. There were moments where I wanted to take Sadie aside and tell her to slow things down, but instead we have to watch her learn these lessons for herself. It was frustrating at times, but ultimately worth it.

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