A Solid Middle-Grade Mystery with a Twist
The Disappearance of Emily H.
by Barrie Summy
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books / Delacorte Books for Young Readers
A girl who can see the past tries to save the future in this compelling tween mystery.
A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.
Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.
When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.
But is it too late to save Emily?
Sometimes a book’s genre is clear from page one and sometimes it creeps up on you. Despite its title, cover art, and blurb, which create the expectation of a supernatural mystery, The Disappearance of Emily H. does not initially feel like anything other than a novel about a unique girl trying to adjust to changes in her life. (She’s just moved to a new town and started a new school for the fifth time.) Certainly Raine’s ability to read pieces of another’s memories in the sparkles she finds is intriguing, but unlike most other books where a character with an unusual ability hides that fact from her parents, Raine’s mother knows of her gift and neither condemns nor fears it. The fact that she takes it in stride means that we do, too. Unfortunately, though realistically, there is no explanation as to why Raine has this ability or why only certain memories fall from a person and linger as sparkles while others do not. Sometimes they reveal important moments in someone’s life, but generally they’re nothing special. And since Raine and her mother treat her talent so casually, the supernatural aspect of the book is muted.
Raine becomes interested in Emily Huvar’s disappearance when she learns that her new house was recently Emily’s home. An unexpected confrontation then causes Raine to embark on a serious investigation into the circumstances surrounding the missing girl. Meanwhile, she has to deal with the clique of mean girls who daily and cruelly bully her and her friend. (I am not a fan of the strategy Raine came up with to combat them, “an eye for an eye” not necessarily being the best way to handle such things.) As the two storylines converge, the novel’s genre is established, and we are swept up into a traditional mystery where, instead of fingerprints, the clues come by way of sparkles.
The pages flip quickly and the reader gets closer to the edge of her seat with each new sparkle that Raine captures. The novel is not without its flaws, however. To detail the whopper of them all would spoil the plot, so I’ll only say that the police force in Yielding, New York, is the only law enforcement agency in existence to return vital evidence while a case is still open. That blunder aside, The Disappearance of Emily H. is an entertaining, suspenseful mystery.
— Jennifer Michelle
Though the supernatural plays a significant role in The Disappearance of Emily H., the novel is not a fantasy. Summy keeps her character grounded in reality, which helps the reader accept almost without blinking the concept of ‘sparkles’ and Raine’s special ability. Like a good mystery, the plot expands to include numerous suspects, and when the climax nears, the reader’s heart begins to thump a little faster!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Random House Children’s Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”