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Missing, She Wrote

Rebecca Podos’ debut novel, The Mystery of Hollow Places, investigates a case of missing parents.

Missing, She Wrote

BOOK REPORT for The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

Cover Story: My Kind Of Beach
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Mystery-ish
Anti-Bonus Factors: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting, Wrong Vampire
Relationship Status: Call Me in Ten Years?

Cover Story: My Kind Of Beach

I’m not really a “beach person,” at least not in the traditional sense. I’d much rather go to the ocean when it’s cold outside and have to wear a hoodie instead of a swimsuit, and walk along a coastline that’s more craggy than surf-ready. So the chilly feel this cover invokes totally appeals to me.

The Deal:

Imogene Scott’s mother disappeared when Imogene was a young child, leaving her father and her to deal on their own. The two have pretty much kept it together since then, and a step-mother who’s also a therapist helps, some. But when Imogene is 17, her father up and disappears, too. So Imogene sets out to solve the mystery of not only where her father went, but also where her mother’s been.

BFF Charm: Meh

On the surface, Imogene’s a super “normal” teenager. She’s pretty good in school, she goes to parties on the weekends, she crushes on her best friend’s older brother, she both loves and hates her parents. But peeking behind the scenes shows that she’s led an unusual life: Her father’s a mystery writer—and reading his books from a young (i.e., impressionable) age has colored the way Imogene views the world—and her birth mother disappeared when she was very young, and left almost no trace of where she’d gone or why. Still, I often felt myself leaning more toward the Roger Murtaugh end of the BFF scale at the actual way she went about her investigation, and the horrible way that she treated the people in her life. That said, there were some underlying issues at play, so I guess I understood where part of it was coming from. (But I’m all about avoiding any unnecessary drams, so that’s where the super non committal “meh” comes from.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Imogene is too preoccupied with the mystery of her parents to take part in much swoonage, but there is some innocent flirting that’s pretty cute. (But, unfortunately—or fortunately?—it doesn’t really lead anywhere.)

Talky Talk: Mystery-ish

Although The Mystery of Hollow Places is billed as a mystery—I mean, it says it front and center in the title—the suspense that often (and should) come along with the solving of a mysterious situation is missing in this book. The trail of clues Imogene follows is circumstantial, and yet she makes connections that even the police couldn’t make. She gets very lucky, very often, and I never really bought into the fact that she was a skilled investigator because of this. Rebecca Podos crafted a character that is a believable teenage girl, but the mystery surrounding her parents’ disappearances, and the sleuthing that it takes to find them, is just missing something.

Also, the mental illness that is an important factor of the disappearances is glossed over, perhaps because the book is told from Imogene’s POV, and she either doesn’t know much about her parents’ issues, or she doesn’t care to know. The issues ended up being used as a kind of throw-away plot device rather than the important character-building point they could have been.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting

Imogene’s parents both have some mental/emotional issues, which definitely doesn’t make them bad people. But their decisions, whether they’re made due to these issues or not, make them terrible parents.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Wrong Vampire

This is a silly thing to call out, and in all likelihood is fixed in the published version of the book (I hope!)—I read an ARC—but it really stood out to me, as someone who’s pretty entrenched in YA pop culture, and would likely also stand out to a lot of readers, considering.

I’m in Jessa’s bed, smashed against the big Vampire Diaries poster tacked to her bedroom wall. …

“I can’t sleep any more.”

“You could if you tried. I even gave you the Damon Salvatore side of the bed. What a waste.” She jabs her finger at the fanged blonde on the poster.

Me thinks this part is meant to say Stefan—or it was written in the heyday of blond Edward Cullen and updated somewhat haphazardly. (Also, blonde blond.)

(Side note: I love that the Internet already had a blond Damon pic ready for me. I found it here.)

Casting Call:

Michelle Ang as Imogene

Relationship Status: Call Me in Ten Years?

Although I think your story was an interesting one, Book, I’d actually like to know more about what happens after your ending. Can we meet up again in a few years and you can fill me in on what’s happened since then?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Balzer & Bray, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Mystery of Hollow Places will be available Jan. 26.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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