Wendi Wise is a typical thirteen year old girl. She likes her best friend, Claire. She likes stealing her mom’s cigarettes. And she likes the boy she recently met at the local mall. But when she makes a plan with Claire to sneak away and meet the boys, it plunges her into a nightmare that costs Claire her life and sends Wendi spiraling into years of drug addiction.
First thing I should say about this book, I devoured it pretty much in a single day. That’s how much it drew me in and kept me waning to know what happened next. Based on that alone, I would recommend this book.
Have You Seen This Girl? is in two parts. The first, which deals with Wendi’s past, focuses at first on her kidnapping and sexual slavery, then on the years of drug use that follow after her release. None of this part is especially lurid or graphic, despite the subject matter. In fact the descriptions of Wendi’s drug use & years in foster care are almost matter of fact, lending them an honesty, especially with the first-person perspective. . What she does and why she does it are listed both with a sense of regret and inevitability.
The second half, in the book’s present, details Wendi’s quest to first get clean, then to return to her old home town, find those responsible for her kidnapping and take her revenge. The way Wendi goes about planning and executing her revenge is simple, realistic and touched with coincidence in a way that only life in a small town can be. All the details ring true, from Wendi trying to hold down a menial job, to being confronted (and trying to avoid) reminders of her previous life to her need to face the ghosts of her past.
Yes, this is a book with dark subject matter and there are moments of violence. But, if you are prepared for that then Have You Seen This Girl? is a gripping read from start to finish. As the book pushes towards its finale, you won’t want to put it down.