Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu & Anne Greenwood Brown | Rating: ★★★★☆
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.
Girl Last Seen should be at the top of your 2016 reading list if you are a fan of Gillian Flynn and Sara Shepard. That’s my first thought when it comes down to what to say about my experience with this thriller. I mean that wholeheartedly: if you like Flynn and Shepard, you’re going to love this release and flip through the pages eagerly.
Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown have a prose all their own but the thrills readers witness in GLS are quite reminiscent to works by the above authors as well. What makes it great is that Girl Last Seen will absolutely appeal to young readers who–perhaps–don’t typically enjoy reading in their spare time.
GLS brings us a lot of creation and manipulation; filling up the spaces with teen angst and romance. It’s a fast read that will surely capture your attention as you try and figure out what has happened in regards to the main mystery. Because there are so many characters, the plots are woven together instantly and everyone is a suspect.
Let’s catch up with our leading characters/those we see in the narration most. Lauren, Jude (Lauren’s ex-childhood best friend) and Mason. Kadence’s role in the plot is huge, too, since the mystery surrounds her disappearance.
Its premise is simple and modern: two best friends make music together and go viral. Nowadays, it’s pretty easy (yet not at all) to achieve a slight amount of fame due to all the social media platforms, so it’s pretty easy to picture. Both girls are talented, both girls are driven, but there’s a lot of bumps in the road and as everyone knows fame can be fickle.
Things grew complicated in the events leading up to the novel–for so long Lauren and Kadence have been best friends and collaborators.
But Lauren fell ill one day at the height of their fame and due to a throat infection, she is no longer able to sing. Kadence isn’t all that supportive over this and you can’t help but wonder why Lauren is friends with her. At first glance, Kadence is obviously more power hungry and manipulative than Lauren you find yourself asking: how are they friends?
Kadence has the star power and charisma.
Lauren is the song writer.
Our story opens on a day which Kadence is putting on a solo show at the coffee shop where Lauren works. Lauren, of course, feels off and nostalgic about it all. It shows us a side to Lauren that makes us like her pretty quickly because she is very sympathetic and, well, normal.
We are introduced to the dramatics of it all quite instantly: Lauren’s songs being changed and dumbed down, Kadence owning the crowd and a nod to the tension in the friendship, possibly over a boy. We see that the switches in format and narration are going to play a big part in how the mystery unfolds.
After meeting Lauren and Kadence; their friendship and its problems, we see things from Jude’s mind. Jude used to live in town but left due to being bullied by Kadence and the way his friendship deteriorated with Lauren. Lauren and Jude were the best of friends once upon a time, until one day they weren’t.
It would seem, at first glance, Jude’s desire for “revenge” against the two would make him the picture perfect candidate to be someone who would actually harm Kadence.
But we get the idea that it’s not him; that he certainly has his own share of problems but there is no way in hell that he is that unbalanced and the author’s certainly wouldn’t be making it that easy for us to solve just yet. My eyes first went to the seemingly sweet boyfriend–Mason–and the fact that he “wouldn’t harm a fly” and seemed to be quite torn between the two best friends.
In fact, Lauren and Mason kissed pre-book. But it was a mistake that should have never happened and both felt exceptionally guilty for potentially hurting Kadence.
Somehow, Kadence found out about this kiss and there was a huge altercation at school between the two girls. It seemed almost to be a boiling point for the friendship and by the time Kadence is missing, things aren’t at all fixed between the two.
Based on Lauren’s annoyance with her so-called best friend and their toxic friendship, it’s likely that they never will be. In spite of how much Lauren misses the good times.
In the events leading up to Kadence having gone missing, the town and internet is buzzing with the mystery of it all. They know only the side of Kady that she chose to show them and she is a pro at making herself look good and likable. Lauren can remember all the times her friend would say, “fake it till you make it!” and the cheesy phrase she’d picked up about reaching for the stars.
Because of all the tension in their friendship, all the things that Lauren has had to go through since losing her voice, she begins the number one suspect in her friends disappearance. But she stands firm on the fact that she is innocent–even if she doesn’t handle being questioned very well or carrying herself at a certain press conference–and is determined to find her best friend, hopefully get things back to normal, and of course clear her name.
All with the help of Jude. They start a tentative friendship and are very cute, in spite of the rocky history and Jude’s initial desire for revenge plots. Because of Kadence and her popularity, because of her past manipulations, both know that there are many enemies out there that could have been involved in this mystery somehow.
Together, they investigate and find a lot of shocks along the way. Kadence has always been an iffy friend, at best, and the more the two dig the more they realized she is not a good person. From publicly outing someone, to stealing a girls boyfriend and leading said girl into being raped, and pinning the blame all on Lauren–Lauren begins to further question the friendship she thought she had with Kadence.
Jude and Lauren grow closer once more and make startling discoveries about why their friendship really ended and what role Kadence played in it. As it turns out, Kadence has been pulling even more strings than previously thought and her web of lies is beginning to be exposed.
Lauren is shocked. Beyond shocked, really, and it’s painful to see our girl go through such realizations. At least she has Jude in her life once more and things are really heating up on that front.
Things grow more complicated when Jude is thrust into the investigation and later as he finds Kadence’s laptop. During this time we go from “did Jude do it?” to “did Lauren do it?” to “did Mason do it?” and it seems to be a never ending circle as revelations start pouring in.
Finally, after a discovery made by Lauren, Jude and Mason, at a nearby warehouse, the mystery is solved in a way that is book!Alison DiLaurentis meets Amy Elliot-Dunne and it’s very satisfying.
It was pretty predictable as the plot began to unfold and that bugged me a little bit and the last few chapters felt kind of rushed and lacked the closure I had hoped for, which is why it's not getting a five star review, but it was still a solid read and I enjoyed it. If you can look past flaws in the way the story concluded and the sometimes shakier transitions in narration, this one is for you!
There was so much that happened, so much suspense and questions and so many ways that the story could have gone, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Fans of Gone Girl and Pretty Little Liars are going to dig into this one and find themselves a new favorite. Girl Last Seen is young adult thriller at its finest and a can’t miss read.