Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Natasha Mac a'Bhaird: Missing Ellen

Natasha Mac a'Bhaird: Missing Ellen

Teenagers Maggie and Ellen have been best friends since they were five. Ellen is lively, outgoing and impetuous while Maggie is quieter and more sensible. The story starts with a new school year. Ellen is missing, though we don't yet know why, and Maggie is missing her dreadfully - this dual meaning of "missing" is reflected in the story's two voices. Both are Maggie's - one a narrative from the point where she thinks Ellen's problem started until the time she disappeared, and the other a set of letters to her friend in which she tells her what her life is like now.

It's not difficult to guess where Ellen's story is going as she gets involved with a different crowd and makes choices that Maggie doesn't agree with. She's an attractive character on the surface, but thoughtless and reckless, and I much prefer Maggie who is left bereft at Ellen's disappearance and tortured by "what ifs", wondering if she could have changed the outcome by behaving differently herself. Her family and other school friends don't know how to help her and she has to find her own way through the grief and guilt.

It's hard to say much more without giving away the plot, so I'll leave it at that. I thought the story was very well told and the breakdown, in different ways, of both girls sensitively handled. It's not all gloom though - there's a glimmer of hope for Maggie at the end when she finally realises that she has to let Ellen go, and there's also a hint of romance ahead.

Thanks to O'Brien Press for sending me this book, which I won in a draw. I will now be donating it to Glasgow Women's Library for their younger women's collection.

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