The VanApfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Missing

This debut by Australian author, Felicity McClean, is a tantalizing page-turner. This exciting novel is a mystery and coming-of-age story in one. Tikka remembers her childhood–she grew up in a small Australian river valley.

One incident irrevocably changed the Tikka’s life: the summer of 1992. Her neighbors, Corrie, Hannah, and Ruth, disappeared one fateful day. The police assume its a missing case but Tikka and her sister are withholding information. Tikka knows that the Van Apfel girls were planning to runaway, a fact she kept from police. Years later, as an adult, she wonders if she made the right choice.

She dwells on the Apfel girls’ disappearance to the point where it begins to affect her mental health. As Corrie’s memory consumes Tikka, she begins to see Corrie everywhere, or at least people who that look like Corrie.

McLean has a delightful sardonic wit. She frames the story with the Lindy Chamberlain case, a woman whose baby girl disappears while on a camping trip.

Tikka stages a skit based on the case for a school event the evening of the Van Apfel girls’ disappearance. Just as it had in the Chamberlain case, the Van Apfel case causes many tongues to wag. Characters jump to conclusions about a male teacher.

Many novels focus on missing girls. Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth focuses on how a Siberian community reacts to the disappearance of two of their own. 

Though it addresses the self-help industry and single motherhood,  Jaclyn Moriarty Gravity Is The Thing, is also about missing persons. 

Other titles about missing persons:
Lippman, Lauran. Lady in the Lake.
Miranda, Megan. All the Missing Girls.
O’Nan, Stewart. Songs for the Missing

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History of Wolves by Emily Frilund

historyofwolvesFor a coming-of-age story that transcends genre, read Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves.

One of the central questions in this tale is culpability.

“What’s the difference between what you want to believe and what you do?…And what’s the difference between what you think and what you end up doing,” Madeleine wonders.

She’s a kid surrounded by adults–her parents, Mr. Grierson, the Gardners who shirk their duties and blame others for mistakes they make.

The worst offender is probably Patra who blames illogically blames Madeleine for the death of her four-year-old.

Then there’s Mr. Grierson, her teacher, who is reprehensible but not guilt of what Lily and the police charge him with. Madeleine tracks him to Florida after he gets out of prison. She writes letters to him reminding him but  he seems to have forgotten her.

Though Madeleine is expert at hiking and traversing the streams the woods, she is less expert at deciphering social cues or understanding human relationships. Perhaps that is why she is fascinated by Patra and Leo’s strange relationship.

However capable she is at wilderness survival, Madeleine is strangely powerless when faced  with Leo’s religious obsession or Lily’s duplicity.