Author has promise, but

Girl Last Seen - Nina Laurin

I hate being the first person to give a book one star on Goodreads, I really do.  I really hate it when I am conflicted about that one star rating, especially when it is a debut novel.


But two stars means okay, and I didn’t find the book okay.  Official rating is 1.5.


                The basic premise of this novel is that a woman, Lainey, who escaped her rapist/abductor realizes that the latest missing girl looks like her and may be the first victim of the same sadist, the first in several years.


                All of which sounds pretty interesting.


                The best part of the book, and the riskiest, is the character of Lainey – who is really unlikable.  She isn’t so much of anti-hero as hapless.  It’s understandable considering that she is suffering from a variety of mental issues caused not only by her abduction and rape, but also because she had a shitty life before.  In many ways, this backstory in terms of Lainey is cliché and overused.  It isn’t so much the mental issues, as the fact that these characters never truly seem to be trying to get help to overcome these issues.  Look, I’ve suffered with depression for half my life.  I have good years and bad years.  I know how hard and difficult it is to get yourself into treatment.  That’s half the battle or more.  I understand that.


                But, also from experience, I understand too well what it is to live with people who are suffering from depression or other forms of mental illness and do not get proper treatment.  They refuse to, full stop.  It is absolutely horrible.  Not only for the mood swings and hurtful behavior and words that get spewed, but also because it is somewhat manipulative.  Look, I understand, but is absolutely exhausting.  And my practice for reading about such characters is very, very thin.  I live with these people, thank you.


                Therefore, while I admire the bravery that Laurin showed in her depiction of Lainey, I was also somewhat frustrated with it.  This frustration made the other problems with the book stand out more.


                Spoilers ahoy!


                Okay, I am sorry, but I don’t buy the American setting, I truly don’t.  I have never been to Seattle, but I am pretty sure there is more than one police station. Do Canadians and Brits just place books in Seattle because, hey it’s just like Canada to most US people, so don’t worry about sounding American?  I also cannot believe a school that does such detailed screening, so detailed that it gets information about a closed adoption and shares it to all the teachers, would not know about the abuse of a student at the hands of her father.  While I understand that many in the school would not want to do anything, there are two teachers where such lack of involvement would seem to be out of character.  Additionally, the whole public-school comment about suspension was just plain stupid.  I’m sorry it was.  I am a product of a public-school system, I teach products of a public school who haven’t students in public schools.  That statement was so crap.  I’m sorry, but it was.


                The whole reveal premise also does not work at all.  It really doesn’t I’m sorry.  I’m asking how too much and the answer, which seems to be the answer, is money for all the hows.  That’s at best sloppy plotting.  Sorry. 


                Okay, but those are quibbles.  The major issue is the relationship that Lainey has with Ortiz, the detective who discovered her when she escaped her rapist.  This is a seriously sick relationship.  If Ortiz is supposed to be the hero, he doesn’t come across as one, especially with his assault of Lainey in the opening section of the book.  Considering why he is there, wouldn’t Lainey’s social worker also be there?  Wouldn’t the social worker be there when she is questioned by the police?  If I am asking all these questions, I’m not being thrilled.  Then she sleeps with him.  Which, okay mental illness, drug addiction, but he is then supposed to be wise and caring.  Sorry, nope.  I really do not like abusive YA romantic leads, and this supposed cop is that.  The relationship would have head a purpose or been less objectionable if there had been some exploration of the problems with it.  But there really wasn’t, not until the sop at the end which doesn’t quite work. 


                              Honesty, this book is like a bad Lifetime movie in many ways, except for the character of Lainey.


                Yet, there is something there in the writing, you can see a spark every now and then.  A hint that the author’s later work will be better.  So, skip the book, keep an eye on the author.