Pub. Date: June 28, 2016
Source: finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Random House Books for Young Readers!)
Summary: Some choices change everything. Scarlett chose to run. And the consequences will be deadly.
Stolen from her family as a young girl, Scarlett was lucky enough to eventually escape her captor. Now a teen, she’s starting a summer job at an amusement park. There are cute boys, new friends, and the chance to finally have a normal life.
Her first day on the job, Scarlett is shocked to discover that a girl from the park has gone missing. Old memories come rushing back. And now as she meets her new coworkers, one of the girls seems strangely familiar. When Scarlett chose to run all those years ago, what did she set into motion? And when push comes to shove, how far will she go to uncover the truth . . . before it’s too late?
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Thriller
Amanda Panitch’s 2015 debut, Damage Done, messed with my mind in all the right ways. Immediately after finishing I pushed it on my sister, a somewhat reluctant reader, tip-toeing that line where I tried to tell her how OMGWOW it was while also avoiding spoilers – including a major one I hadn’t seen coming. That was nearly a year ago and I’ll admit Panitch fell to the side, topped by other authors I’m more familiar with who had big, exciting novels on the way. It wasn’t until Never Missing Never Found arrived at my door that I realized oh, wait a minute, I know you!
When Scarlett was eight-years-old, she was kidnapped, simply plucked off the street while walking home one day. After being told her parents no longer wanted her, she all but gave up her fight, submitting defeat and accepted her new life as Stepmother’s maid. Over the years Scarlett learned what was expected of her and slowly chipped through Stepmother’s cold exterior, eventually confessing she was lonely. Not long after, another girl showed up – only Pixie was determined to escape and suffered the consequences over and over.
Seven years later, Scarlett was let go and since then hasn’t quite been able to find her place in the family. Her mother abandoned them, there’s a younger brother she’s only just met, and her sister – once her closest friend – can’t stand her. When she finds a summer job at the local amusement park, Scarlett doesn’t realize her past is about to come back full-force: a girl goes missing…and why does another one of her coworkers seem so familiar?
Because I had read Damage Done, I knew there was going to be some twist, some big POW moment where Panitch would turn the entire story on its head. I went into the book prepared and was suspicious of everyone, convincing myself of ulterior motives and dark secrets that only I could see. While the beginning was good, it didn’t feel like anything more than your average summery YA: there’s a cute boy who obviously has a sort-of-almost girlfriend, a crappy job at an amusement park, family drama galore. There wasn’t anything that called back to Panitch’s debut, nothing that sent chills down my spine or made me gasp in delight.
BUT THEN. (And when the but then comes, you’ll be utterly floored.)
Interspersed throughout Scarlett’s present story are scenes from her time at Stepmother’s and these were such a treat…in a totally morbid, potentially crazy way. Her near-instantaneous acceptance that her parents just didn’t want her anymore didn’t sit well with me (I don’t feel that an 8-year-old would be so willing to believe that) but I was wholly on board for the rest. Stepmother runs a brothel of sorts and Scarlett and later, Pixie, are tasked with cleaning up, changing the bed sheets, etc. This definitely could have delved into some seriously dark and disturbing topics, but kidnapping and beatings are as far as Panitch takes it.
To say more would be to tackle a mountain of spoilers – and trust me, there are SEVERAL I want to discuss! As it is, Never Missing Never Found is an excellent follow-up to a stunning debut and I’m thrilled to see where Amanda Panitch goes next! This novel was compulsively readable and I was turning the pages so fast they were nearly a blur. If you’re looking for a juicy mystery with a killer twist at the end, look no further than Never Missing Never Found – this one is PERFECT for a day spent at the beach!