ALL THE MISSING GIRLS by Megan Miranda
CBTB Rating: 2/5
THE VERDICT: skip this one
I so badly wanted to like this book. It has such a striking cover, is being marketed as a thriller in the vein of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, and is written with a seriously unique twist: the mystery is told backward. Unfortunately, this book really fell flat for me. Despite (or perhaps because of) its unique plot structure, the mystery aspect of the story was sorely lacking, and I struggled to finish it. Fans of Megan Miranda’s YA books might still enjoy ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, but for readers looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, this isn’t the book for you.
ALL THE MISSING GIRLS is a story of, you guessed it, missing girls. When Nicolette left her hometown 10 years ago, she was desperate to escape the tragic disappearance of her childhood best friend, and she successfully created a whole new life for herself. Now, called back to her hometown to care for her aging father, Nicolette once again comes face to face with the ghosts of her past. When another girl in her town disappears, Nicolette is afraid that the events of her past are repeating, and she struggles to understand both past and present crimes in the hopes of preventing another.
This book’s plot sounds intriguing enough, but what really drove me to read it was its main hook: the story is told backward. I had never read a mystery told backward before, and I was totally excited to experience this unique plot structure. So how does it work, exactly? The book’s first chapter is essentially an introduction: the reader meets Nicolette, gets background information on her childhood, and learns about her current life, leading up to the new tragedy that strikes her hometown. Then the chapters are presented in reverse order: starting with Day 14* (14 days into the new investigation), counting down to Day 1. I still think this is an incredibly original and bold strategy for mystery-writing, and I commend Megan Miranda’s effort. Sadly, this plot structure just didn’t work for me.
My experience reading ALL THE MISSING GIRLS was seriously undermined by the very thing that had excited me most about this read – telling a mystery backward. In my opinion, this plot structure essentially dooms the quality of mystery you can write. What do I mean, exactly? Think about the best mystery you’ve ever read – one that puzzled you, kept you on the edge of your seat, and had you totally immersed in solving the case. There is a certain amount of complexity and urgency inherent in any good mystery, and a lot of that depends upon the author’s ability to create a story that you can follow logically, but that still manages to trick you. Telling a story backward totally excludes the reader from the mystery-solving process, and that made this book almost unreadable to me. The twists and turns of this story were lackluster and illogical, and I didn’t feel at all invested in figuring out the story’s conclusion, because there was no possible way that I could. The story’s “twists” seemed random and haphazard, and it was totally lacking in suspense and plot development.
Fans of Megan Miranda’s YA books and readers looking for a young adult/crime crossover will very likely thoroughly enjoy this story - it does have a love triangle and occasional moments of moderate spookiness and suspense. But if you’re looking for a truly suspenseful, gripping adult thriller, I can’t recommend this one.
*Correction: Day 15 rather than Day 14.