Sometimes, reading along in my Cybs books, I find that the paranormal elements are slow to develop within a plot. That's jarring to some people, but when well done, I rather like stories centered in "normal" life in the known universe that then drift into the land of weird. In this novel I was caught up in the crisis and the mystery - and the tweaked attitudes of the people surrounding the case, and then I thought, "Hey, wait!" The paranormal is there - but first, there's some stuff to get through...
Reader Gut Reaction: This novel caught me off guard, and had my eyes welling with tears several times. I hadn't expected that. The emotions and the setting were very real. The mystery isn't exactly mysterious - the situation is set pretty clearly, but it's also unbelievable - thoroughly. And it's set up perfectly that way.
Concerning Character: Liv is actually... a pretty hateful sibling. It's not hard to discredit an older sister who just loathes her brother. As a narrator, Liv is thoroughly unreliable. I mean, she blames her brother for people's deaths in the neighborhood -- "see, we moved here and people died. He's just that abhorrent, obviously. Liv comes across as someone shallow, who is easily distracted by shiny things and boys. A small complaint is that her parents seem slightly one-dimensional, and only continue to fade as the story goes on - but they make the right noises that parents do with squabbling kids: "Stop bothering your brother. Don't make that face at your sister." The mutual distaste continues until one night when Liv and Mort - junior and freshman - end up at the same high school party. How heinous is that!? It's only when her brother doesn't come home that night that Liv's entire life is refocused. Yeah, so they had zero in common and couldn't really stand being in the same room, but... maybe she loved Mort after all.
It's just depressing that she discovers this when it seems to be too late.
Recommended for Fans Of...: Mort, by Terry Pratchett, Meg Cabot's Abandon, or various vampire novels.
Themes & Things: There is in this book a terrifyingly skillful depiction of the stages of grief, and the manifestation of it - very well done, to the point of being a bit stab-in-the-heart painful. However, one of the characters, Liv's good friend, brings up a thought which turns the novel around - sometimes, grief is selfish. Sometimes, we find ourselves trying to turn our lives into an apology that the person we didn't love enough is never going to see. That's not a healthy path.
I don't think I've ever come across a novel - any novel, not even just marketed to young adults - which has brought up that point. It was kind of stunning.
Authorial Asides: ...and the author of the stunning-ness is Madeline Smoot, the publisher of CBAY Books and former Editorial Director of Blooming Tree Press. After bringing the work of other people to print, she is now a debut author herself.
From the title and the way the novel ended, I understand there will be more stories forthcoming about these odd siblings... it will be interesting to see where this one goes.
You can find the ebook, MISSING: A LIV & DEATH NOVEL, at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.