Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

The Night She Disappeared is young adult mystery writer, April Henry's latest creepy offering. Gabie Klug, Kayla Cutler and Drew Lyle work at Pete's Pizza in Portland. One night Kayla goes missing after delivering a pizza order to a male customer. Her car is found abandoned down by the Willamette River, driver's door open, keys in the ignition, and her purse on the front seat. Both Drew and Gabie feel that Gabie was the intended victim because the man who phoned in the order specifically asked if Gabie, who drives a Mini Cooper, would be delivering the pizza. The police however, don't seem to want to explore this connection much, preferring initially to keep their options open.

As Drew and Gabie try to come to terms with what has happened, they are drawn together into a budding romance. But they are two people from very different parts of society. Gabie's parent's are trauma surgeons and as such, her family is well off, living in a large, well kept home. She's alone much of the time, due to her parent's being on-call, and Pete's Pizza is like a family to her. In contrast, Drew lives with his mother in a run-down, cluttered apartment. His mother is a thief and a meth addict and Drew is her main support. How can two people with such different lives have a relationship?

Pete, owner of the pizza store, decides that no women employees will be delivering pizzas and as a result, the store schedule is reworked. For Drew who relies on the shifts at the pizza place for his income, this is a disaster. Gabie steps in and agrees to let him use her car to deliver pizzas. It is this action that will have positive ramifications later on.

When someone phones in a tip about a white pick-up truck having been seen in the vicinity of the river and second tip comes in fingering a young male, Cody Renfew , the repercussions are deadly. Police focus on Cody without much further investigation into the crime and the suspicion results in terrible consequences for him.

With police convinced now that Kayla is dead, despite the lack of a body, little evidence,  Drew and Gabie are determined to find their lost friend. It takes Drew, out on a delivery in Gabie's Mini Cooper, who unwittingly provides the bait that leads to the novel's breathtaking climax.

April Henry uses many characters to tell the story; Kayla, Drew, Gabie, Gavin (a diver, which isn't evident at first), "John Robertson" who is the kidnapper, Todd and Jeremy (two kids who discover Kayla's car). This seems to work surprisingly well because Henry keeps the storyline simple. "John Robertson" is suitably creepy and disturbing as the "perp" in the novel. He's not happy with the girl he got, especially since he really wants Gabie and still plans to grab her.

My one major complaint about this book is how the police seem to ignore the fact that the perpetrator had initially targeted Gabie, and in the end conclude that Kayla, after 13 days, is dead. In real life, this simply wouldn't happen. With only circumstantial evidence, most of it quite weak, and no body, the police somehow arrive at this conclusion, and before we know it, Kayla's family is having a funeral service. This was unrealistic, unbelievable, and wasn't  necessary to the novel's storyline.

Despite this plot weakness, The Night She Disappeared,  is a book that will appeal to younger teens interested in a good suspense novel. The plot is simple, there's an element of first love and conflict between the two main characters, and a crime to solve. It's also a short read that is fast paced, with added pieces of information to draw a reader in. There are police reports, pieces of evidence from the victim, lab reports, web information and 911 transcripts, all of which engage the reader and make the storytelling authentic.

Book Details:
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry
New York: Henry Holt    2012
229 pp.

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