A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber

A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber
Pub. Date: September 3, 2019
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Harlequin/MIRA!)
Summary: Raised in a quiet rural community, Anna has always been taught that her Mamma’s rules are the only path to follow. But, on her eighteenth birthday, she defies her Mamma for the first time in her life, and goes to Astroland. She’s never been allowed to visit Florida’s biggest theme park, so why, when she arrives, does everything about it seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives that same day—a letter addressing her by a different name?

Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes as the funds dedicated to the search dry up, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth herself. But can she find the answer before it tears her family apart?
Genre: Mystery

As the temperatures drop and the mornings come with a chill in the air, there’s nothing I look forward to more than sinking into a mystery. Something dark, something intense and gripping that will thoroughly rope me in and hold me captive until the Big Reveal is announced. When I was approached to review A Girl Named Anna, I had high hopes: a sister’s disappearance, a cult-like religion obsessed with cleanliness, a Mamma who must be obeyed above all else. Dark, intense, and gripping, hello!

Anna has just turned eighteen and made a secret wish with her pastor’s son of a boyfriend: she wants to visit Astroland. For fifteen years it has been Florida’s biggest theme park, yet Mamma has forbade it for some unknown reason. Locked in a house with little in the way of entertainment apart from gardening and reading the Bible, Anna seems more like a young woman from a much earlier era.

Growing up in the spotlight hasn’t been easy on Rosie. When she was just a year old, her older sister suddenly vanished while the family was on vacation. Back home in England, the family continues to search fifteen years later, hoping with each media appearance that someone, somewhere, will finally come forward with a new lead.

Told in alternating chapters, A Girl Named Anna is an extremely quick read; I finished in roughly three hours – at around 330 pages, 100 per hour is a rapid pace for me! The chapters are short, brisk, and easy to read. There really isn’t much of a mystery: it’s clear from the start Anna is the missing sister; there are only two narratives in the book. I wish there would have been a third, a reporter perhaps? Mamma? The journalist who first has suspicions all those years ago? Some outside voice to break up the two girls’.

A Girl Named Anna is a debut novel and reads as such. Much of the plot relies on coincidences and suspension of disbelief. I mean, how else is a reader expected to enjoy a book where a sixteen-year-old solves a 15-year disappearance in less than a month when police and PIs – not to mention a slew of Reddit-esque detectives – couldn’t? I still feel the story could have been aided by another voice in the mix, rather than just Rosie and Anna. That said, while I’ve certainly read far more entertaining and, well, thrilling novels, A Girl Named Anna was good for a few hours before bed.

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