Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Here comes your ghost again: GIRL LAST SEEN.

Girl Last SeenGirl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lainey was ten when she was taken. She spent three horrible years in her kidnapper's basement, enduring horrible things. Lainey is supposed to be "lucky," since she escaped, but it's hard for her to see it that way sometimes. Her entire life has been formed by that awful period in her life. And now, another girl has gone missing. Olivia Shaw, who looks exactly like Lainey did thirteen years ago. Lainey's kidnapper was never found: the police say because she could never give strong enough evidence to identify him. So Lainey has spent these years afraid, living in a haze of pills and booze, and waiting for something bad to happen. Well, something bad has happened. How exactly is Lainey involved, and is she ever going to be safe again?

I definitely have some mixed feelings about this one. It certainly grabs you from the beginning and has some moments that make you go "what?!" Parts of the story are very unique--I enjoyed the plot of two young women/girls aligned by a potential kidnapper--but the story was marred somewhat by the focus on Lainey's drinking and drugs. She's presented as an unreliable narrator, which I understand, and as a flawed heroine. Some of the scenes with her nearly make you cringe: you feel a mix of such sympathy and frustration, because she's such a stressful protagonist. The trend toward these frustrating, unreliable narrators lately has grown a bit old for me.

My other issue was Lainey's strange dynamic with the detective investigating Olivia's disappearance, Sean: the same detective, coincidentally, who found Lainey thirteen years ago as she stumbled helplessly along the road after escaping her horrible fate in the basement. Their dynamic, frankly, is just odd, and I found it almost distracting from the main story. Romance? Just a side story? Is he involved? It was less a bit of intrigue though and, as I mentioned, a distraction. And honestly, a little confusing. After a while, I started to get a little bored with Lainey's helplessness, her interactions with Sean, and the overall lack of things moving forward.

That changed about 3/4 in, when things picked up and became interesting again. There are definitely some fascinating moments in the book, and I did find it engaging overall, despite some stumbles along the way. This is a first novel and I see room from improvement, for sure. I'm going for a 3-star rating -- this is based on a combination of 2.5 stars for some stilted/cheesy writing combined with 3.5 stars for some exciting plot twists, including one near the end that pretty much made it all worth it. I would certainly be intrigued to read Laurin's next book. Don't let my review scare you from this one: I read a lot of thrillers, so I get bit jaded reading some similar plot devices. There's still plenty of pieces to like here.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!); it is available everywhere as of 06/20/2017.

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