Friday, August 31, 2018

Teen/YA Review: Disappeared

I am a fan of YA author Francisco X. Stork, and I enjoyed his novels Marcelo in the Real World, Irises, and The Memory of Light. He has a talent for telling stories that feature realistic young characters with deep emotional depth and address important issues. I recently listened to his latest novel, Disappeared, on audio, and it was no exception, a suspenseful tale about two siblings in Mexico each faced with ethical decisions with life-or-death consequences.

Sara Zapata lives with her mother and younger brother in a tiny house in Juarez, Mexico. She works as a journalist at a local newspaper to help support her family. Four months ago, Sara's best friend, Linda, disappeared, and since then, Sara has written articles about the many young women who disappear from Juarez each year so that people will remember them and the police will not give up looking for them. One morning at work, though, Sara receives a serious death threat that also names her family, and she must decide whether to continue her quest or give it up to protect herself and her family. That same day, she also receives a mysterious phone message that she is certain is from Linda, with a photo that might contain clues to her and the other women's whereabouts. Sara must find Linda and the other missing women, but the more she learns, the more danger she is in.

Meanwhile, Sara's brother, Emiliano, is facing a moral dilemma of his own. He mostly lives a normal teen life, going to school, playing soccer, and nursing a crush on Perla Rubi. Emiliano also contributes to his family's income by working with local youth to collect and resell artisan crafts. He works hard, using his bicycle to pick up and deliver the craft products. He's also involved in a local organization that helps at-risk youth, which he himself was at one time, after getting caught shoplifting. Emiliano is in love with Perla Rubi, but he knows that her family will never accept him because he is poor. He is desperate to show them that he is good enough for her, so when he is offered a role in the local crime ring that he knows is wrong but would bring his family out of poverty, he is tempted.

Sara and Emiliano are each immersed in their own quandaries, though gradually, there is some overlap that eventually comes to light. This novel has the trademark thoughtfulness and poignancy of Stork's other novels, but I was surprised that it is also a fast-paced thriller at times, particularly Sara's story. Her investigation of the abduction of the women carries plenty of suspense, especially as the stakes get higher. The eventual resolution of the siblings' problems was also a surprising twist for me. The audio production was very well-done. The text includes many Spanish words, so I appreciated hearing them pronounced correctly by the dual Mexican narrators - Roxana Ortega and Christian Barillas - voicing the alternating viewpoints of Sara and Emiliano. The book kept my attention, and I was immersed in Sara's and Emiliano's stories, hoping for each of them to do the right thing and also stay safe. As usual, Stork tells a specific story while also bringing to light important issues in our global world today.

336 pages, Arthur A. Levine Books
Scholastic Audio

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here.

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  1. I also enjoyed this book; he is such a good writer. I love the idea that the alternating voices were read by different readers! I feel like I learn something when I read his books.

    1. Yes, same! And I really enjoy when an audio makes use of different narrators.