I was drawn to Karen Brown’s The Longings of Wayward Girls because of the many similarities to Jennifer McMahon’s Island of Lost Girls. Both have a very similar synopsis about missing children; even their titles and covers resemble each other. However, while McMahon to me is a master at creating an eerie sense of dread in her books, Brown doesn’t quite write with the same effect. For a debut, the story is well told, but I could definitely take or leave the plot.
On the surface, twelve-year-old Sadie Hawkins is a normal suburban girl growing up in the 1970s. However, the reader only needs to dig a little deeper to discover that things are not all what they seem. A local girl, Laura Loomis, disappeared a few years prior, keeping the town’s residents continually on edge. Sadie’s mother has deep psychological issues that affect her family in exponential ways. To escape the problems at her house, Sadie connives a plan with her best friend, Betty. Together, they begin to write letters to a lonely schoolmate, Francine, pretending to be a boy. As the pen pal “relationship” continues, things take a dangerous turn when Francine goes missing; only when Sadie has grown up with her own children does she discover the truth behind what happened.
I so wanted to love this book and was hoping that Brown would pen a really suspenseful tale. However, I found Sadie’s actions to be quite unbelievable, particularly something she does as a grown adult (not to give anything away). At times I couldn’t stop reading, and at other times, I just shook my head in disbelief. For that, I’m going to give it an average rating.