The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Naomi’s earliest memory is of herself as a ten-year-old running naked in a strawberry field. She runs towards migrant workers who take her to a sheriff.

Twenty years later, Naomi is a thirty-year-old private investigator trying to find a child who has disappeared while out on a family trip. Naomi has become a private investigator to atone, as she puts it, to “atone” for her past. 

The child she seeks to save, however, has been lost for three years in a remote part of Willamette Valley. There’s no evidence to suggest that the child is alive. The case is inactive and its assumed she has perished in the snow. 

Naomi learns from each case and this case gives her most valuable insight yet. Glimmers of the past return as she finds the living conditions of the girl, a cave in a remote claim.

Denfeld, a former private investigator, writes a taut, psychological mystery with details that ring true.  

A harrowing work of psychological fiction set in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where fur trapping is still commonplace in remote towns. In one such town, a mysterious figure lives in obscurity. Years ago, he had been kidnapped and tortured by someone he calls simply “The Man.”

Could this be mysterious figure be tied to the missing girl?

As Naomi reaches out to her foster bother, some of her lost memories return. After solving the case of the missing girl, called the “Snow Girl,” Naomi vows to solve a more personal missing person case. 

The Butterfly Girl is the second novel in the Naomi Cottle series. 
https://renedenfeld.com/author/

Normal People by Sally Rooney

In this novel, two teenagers avoid each other at school yet are also fiercely, strangely attracted to one other. 

The two come from different worlds. Marianne has a much higher socioeconomic status than Connell. Her parents are barristers whereas Connell is raised by a single Mom. Connell’s mother is, in fact, a housekeeper for Marianne’s parents. 

Due to some quirk on her part, Marianne has a lower social status in school than he does. Connell is a popular football player while she is lonely and ostracized.

In spite of this, the two teenagers come together for secret trysts. Terrified, though, that anyone would find out about their affair, Connell treats Marianne coldly. He invites someone else to the Debs.

At Trinity University, the pair become friends and lovers once again. She is now more popular than he is yet they still struggle to communicate. Their relationship continues to be passionate, volatile, and heart-breaking.

After a misunderstanding, the two start seeing other people. Marianne, intelligent yet damaged psychologically by her family, seeks out boyfriends that are cruel to her. 

Connell feels Helen is a better choice until a funeral at his home town bring his illusions crashing down. 

This novel, which was long listed for a Man Booker prize, will soon become a 12-part half-hour drama on BBC3.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A beautiful allegorical story about a young person’s journey from grief to acceptance. Connor has two nightmares that bother him. One comes in the shape of walking yew tree that something visits at 12:07AM. The other monster that is more real and frightening he cannot even describe. He calls it his “nightmare.”

Connor has many troubles: his mother his dying, his father has a new family and has moved to America, his Grandmother who wants to adopt him is obtuse and annoying.

Conor would give anything for his mother to live, even befriend a yew-tree monster who claims he can cure every human ailment.

What’s best about this novel is how psychologically astute the writing is. Conor is isolated and so he feels “invisible.” He asks the yew tree how he helped another invisible being but ends up getting into a physical fight with a boy that has bullied him.

The monster tells stories to help the boy understand psychological truths:

There was once an invisible man, the monster continued, though Conor kept his eyes firmly on Harry, who had grown tried of being unseen…It was not that he was actually invisible, the monster said, following Conor….It was that people had become used to not seeing him.”

Conor learns, however, that there are “harder things being invisible.” At his worst, Conor learns, “They all saw him now. But he was further away than ever.”