Abby is missing long before she disappears at the beginning of Missing Abby (2006) by Lee Weatherly. Narrated by Abby’s former-best-friend, Emma, the plot examines how their friendship deteriorated in the past while looking at the events surrounding Abby’s disappearance in the present.
This novel, Weatherly’s second, uses Abby’s disappearance to tell Emma’s story. The novel is told in chapters, one for each day after Abby is reported missing. As the story moves farther away from that day, the focus shifts from wondering what happened to Abby as readers begin to wonder what happened between the two girls. Because at thirteen, they are still girls–a fact that is not always obvious from the narration that seems to sound more like the voice of a seventeen-year-old.
Through a strange coincidence, Emma is the last person to see Abby before she gets off a local bus and vanishes. When Emma has to report everything she remembers about that day to the police she also starts to remember their old friendship. Anger often flares up through the worry Emma shows for Abby. Weatherly handles these conflicting emotions well, her narration making it clear that Abby is missed even while Emma is still angry with her.
Just why Emma is so angry at Abby is not clear until the last half of the story. Her reasons for ending the friendship are revealed in dribs and drabs that interrupt the regular narrative: “Freak. The word slithered into my mind, breaking the spell.” Through these fragments readers can piece the girls’ back-story together before Emma reveals the finer details.
Weatherly maintains a level of suspense throughout the story as Emma and Abby’s friends try to learn what happened to her. Emma’s cryptic references to “Balden” and “Karen Stipp” also draw readers further into Emma and Abby’s past. At the same time, the plot remains necessarily one-sided as Abby never gets the chance to tell her experiences.
I really like the message of this story. How, interestingly, it is only after Abby goes missing that Emma is able to realize how precious Abby was as a friend and subsequently find herself again. The writing only falters at the end, where Weatherly seems desperate to neatly tie up the loose ends of a story that was never clear-cut or neat.
As readers my have guessed, this book doesn’t end on an entirely up note. But if you can handle a slightly sad read, give it a try. Also, on a totally shallow level, I absolutely love the cover art on the hardcover edition of this book. The illustration is beautiful and is the main reason I became interested enough in this book to pick it up.
Possible Pairings: The Alison Rules by Catherine Clark, Alter Ego by Robbie Cooper, Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci, Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde