Simon & Schuster, 2006
Lauren has always known she was adopted but when a little research turns up the possibility that she was snatched from an American family as a baby, suddenly Lauren's life seems like a sham. How can she find her biological parents? And are her adoptive parents really responsible for kidnapping her? She manages to wangle a trip across the Atlantic where she runs away to try and find the truth. But the circumstances of her disappearance are murky and Lauren's kidnappers are still at large and willing to do anything to keep her silent…
Lauren is a typical teenager, juggling homework, an annoying little brother, and a fractious relationship with her parents. Lauren is also adopted, and desperate to find out more information about her past and where she comes from. A school project leads her to question her roots, until an image on a missing children website sparks a transatlantic adventure that threatens to go horribly wrong.
I wasn't convinced to begin with. Lauren leaps to fantastical conclusions that, while they bear out, lack the conviction I would normally want to bring me along for the ride. In order to get the story where it needs to be, there are a few improbable leaps of logic that irked me. Once I got over this, though, it was a fast-paced read with a lot of twists and turns.
Lauren goes from a reasonably mundane life in London to a whirlwind of kidnapping, breaking and entering, near-death experiences, prison, attempted murder and, you know, kissing a boy. The friendship between Lauren and Jam was sweet, and I liked that it was realistic. I dislike the improbably romantic couplings that YA sometimes throws up, but I felt like I could believe in Lauren and Jam. They were - or seemed - a little bit younger than characters I would normally read (14 and 15), but much more like the teenagers I knew at that age, rather than some of the ones I read about now.
I warmed to Lauren considerably as the book went on, and in the final few chapters it was interesting to see her in a more mature state, particularly with regard to Madison. The other characters were largely peripheral and painted rather broadly, and I would have liked to have seen more development of some of them. The book privileges fast-paced adventure and short, cliffhanger chapters over deep characterisation, which I think might appeal more to a younger audience.
Although most of the action takes place in the US, it was nice to read a young adult book by a British author, which I haven't done for a while. (Sometimes British boys are just British boys. They aren't all devastatingly handsome.) While Girl, Missing sometimes moved too fast for my liking, and there were a few of those "no, really?" coincidences I'd rather avoid, Lauren's quest to find herself, and the complications of this desire, were nicely played out by the end.
Overall rating: 5/10
Book source: Bought secondhand from (the highly recommended) Awesome Books.