What would you do if you were fourteen again, and the object of your affection suddenly vanished?
Brenna Bianco has a secret crush on her friend Mary. Brenna is a latch key kid, an only child forced to spend a lot of time with her extended family in the absence of her parents. Mary is the best friend of Brenna’s slightly older cousin, Sara, and Brenna spends a lot of time with the two older girls. Time often spent trying to ignore the growing attraction to Mary.
Then one day, Mary simply vanishes. Brenna is desperate to know what has become of her friend, and decides that since no one else seems to be taking it seriously, she will have to find out herself. With a Police Officer trying to foil her at every turn, a dysfunctional family who just don’t understand her, and a young neighbor desperate for Brenna’s attention, can Brenna trace what happened to Mary? And along the way, can Brenna find a way to deal with the feelings she has for her?
Missing Mary is a charming coming of age story about first love and the frustrations of being a young teen growing up “different”, combined with the terrifying reality of missing someone who just disappeared.
Brenna is kind of everything I would want my daughter to be if I had one. She’s a little bit sassy, curious, strong willed, and not prepared to walk away from something she believes in. Even though this is a relatively short book, I found Brenna to be a really endearing character, and my heart went out to her and the situation she was in. Through the loneliness of realizing she is different, to the difficulty of not having anyone she can rely on, Brenna is faced with much more than I would hope most young teens have to deal with, and she has such a strong character that it is not hard to see why she is so relentless in her pursuit of the truth.
Sara is almost the complete opposite side of the coin. She is everything I’m told teenage girls are, none of which is polite to repeat! But, most importantly, she is the perfect character to pair with Brenna, because she illustrates exactly how mature, unique, and intelligent Brenna is. I’m certain this is no small accident on Cricket Watson’s part.
The Writing Style
This is styled as a thriller, and there are definitely parts of the story that have that adrenaline rushing, must-turn-the-page-to-see-what-happens-but-I-can’t-actually-look kind of feel to them. Mostly though, I would describe this as a young girl learning about life and love in a difficult and painful way. Missing Mary is perfectly paced for a shorter novel, and has that nice balance between building anticipation and storytelling that made it difficult to put down.
Despite the way the book is framed, and the sinister storyline, what I loved most about this book was the innocence of it all. Brenna is 14 years old, and the mastery of Cricket Watson ensures that this is foremost in the reader’s mind as the plot thickens. Sure, Brenna has romantic feelings for Mary, but Brenna is young, and the romantic storyline is absolutely age appropriate for her character. I found myself surprised by the charm of this book, and the effortless way that Watson endeared her main character to me.
This was probably not quite sold to me fairly in describing it as a thriller. Yes, there is suspense. But as I’ve said a few times now, for me this is more a story about that difficult time in our lives when we are discovering who we really are, and who we will become, so it is better placed in the YA category. This will be a con for some, but if you are after a surprise package, you should totally try this book.
Missing Mary was a genuine surprise to me in so many ways. I loved what Watson did with this book, so much so that I immediately went looking for more of her work. Sadly this seems to be Watson’s only published work, but it is a wee gem and a winner of a Goldie in 2016 in the YA category, so I highly recommend you give it a try!
Excerpt from Missing Mary by Cricket Watson
“What are you guys doing here?”
“We’re out for a bike ride,” Mary said, “and we want you to come.”
Brenna swore she saw Mary’s green eyes twinkle, but she knew it was wishful thinking. Mary was the one reason Brenna didn’t mind being stuck at her cousin’s all the time. “Can’t. I have to stay in.”
“Your parents are out again?” Sara asked in disbelief.
“They’ll never know, then,” Mary pointed out.
“Yeah.” Sara nodded. “Why should you have to stay home, when they never do?”
“It’s not like that,” Brenna said, then quickly weighed the pros and cons. If she went and her parents found out, she would be in deep doo-doo. If she didn’t go, she wouldn’t be able to spend time with Mary, and if she had one weakness, it was her. She tried not to think about what that meant. She tried not to think about it at all. But when the girl was right in front of her…
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781939062895
- Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing
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