Monday, September 20, 2010

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens — 352 pgs


Book CoverWhen realtor Annie O' Sullivan is abducted by "The Freak," she convinces herself that she will be found within the week. But when no one comes to save her she is left to fight for her life against the sadistic and strange man who is holding her captive. Locked in a small cabin with no escape, her every move is monitored and her every privilege is stripped away. Though "The Freak" oddly implies that he cares for her well-being, this doesn't stop him from repeatedly raping her and physically abusing her. After a year of never-ending and bizarre tortures, Annie finally escapes; but she is not the same, nor is the world she reenters. After engaging the help of a psychiatrist, Annie reveals her year of hellish captivity in the cabin, learning slowly to readjust to her freedom and her surroundings. But even though she has escaped, her odd story is far from over. For one thing, she has a very antagonistic relationship with her alcoholic mother, and for another, she is still desperately struggling to deal with her feelings for her boyfriend Luke. As any whiles away her days, avoiding the media and engaging with her psychiatrist in therapy, she discovers that even after her horrible ordeal, she is not safe. When a strange set of crimes is perpetrated against her, Annie is in fear for her life once again, and when the facts eventually come to light, she is left stunned and confused. Still Missing tells Annie's remarkable and terrifying story with breakneck speed and leaves the reader breathlessly rapt until the last page is turned.

I have been reading so much about this book all over the blogosphere and have been really excited to read it. One thing I have been really concerned about in reading this book is that the story would be very traumatic and unpalatable. I tend to shy away from books that make me too mentally uncomfortable, which is one of the reasons I keep putting off The Blue Notebook. It's a slippery slope though, because it's the very premise of the story that intrigues and interests me, but it's the execution I really felt would be most important. I don't think anyone really wants to read a book about torture without some kind of scale balancing revenge, and though this book really could have fallen into the trap of being too brutal, I surprised by what I found.

The book is written in a very straightforward and no-nonsense style. This is not only true of the plot, but also of the characters' dialogue and internal thought processes. The story begins as Annie recounts her horrible ordeal with her therapist, and at once I was able to see that this was no shrinking flower of a girl. She was tough and rugged, and I thought her inability to process the things she had been through was very realistic and on target. Annie's ordeal wasn't pretty to read about, but it was also not overly detailed and gory. Instead, Stevens keeps it gripping, the suspense of Annie's year in the woods mounting imperceptibly until its horrific conclusion. Stevens also had a really deft touch in creating "The Freak." On the surface he seemed like a normal man, but scratching the surface, he was revealed to be a very disturbed and sadistic person who felt as though Annie was his creation to dominate and control. Some of the things that happened to her in that cabin were not only frightening but bizarre, and when she finally managed to free herself, I cheered for her.

One of the things I liked about this book was that it wasn't a one trick pony. Many authors would have been content to let the kidnapping storyline take over the plot and become the center of the action, but Stevens went one better. As Annie recovers, another sinister plot against her is revealed, and coupled with the kidnapping, I was left wondering just what level of collusion between the storylines was going to be revealed. As I read, I was fully gripped by the past and the present, and I was left mentally checking off suspects and clues as the plot wound its way into ever more complex spirals. When I finally got to the end of this very precarious story, I was at once overwhelmed and chilled. Stevens had a way of completely immersing me and she invests her plot cleverly with red herrings, sympathetic villains and a story that barrels inexorability forward on a path that I never expected.

The reason I think this book was such a success for me was Annie herself. She had a way of being very cynical, yet self-deprecating, and that in a way transformed the narrative surrounding her abduction. If not for Annie's pluck and black humor, I can imagine that this book would have become very dark and probably too maudlin for me to get involved in. Annie is a smart-mouthed survivor, and even when she seems to lose hope, there is something about her that is resilient and cunning. As Annie strove against "The Freak," I truly believed that she would one day get the better of him. Though none of the other characters could hold a candle to Annie, the rest of the cast was also interesting and quirky, and I felt that Stevens did a great job of populating this story with eclectic and believable people.

This was a book that left my pulse pounding and my mind in a whirlwind. I doubt I could have put it down if I had wanted to. There are a lot of suspense/thrillers out there nowadays, but this book is truly unique. It certainly had a plot that is unlike any other and with its sassy protagonist, it's easily the best book in this genre that I have read in a long while. Though the subject matter is indeed horrific at times, it's not overblown or overdone, making this a fast paced and absorbing read. This is a book that really lives up to the hype and I would not hesitate to recommend this to readers who like complex and fascinating stories.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

13 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I have been reading the reviews on this and I hope to read this soon! Great review!

Wendy said...

Great review of this book - I agree it is a unique type of thriller (and made my palms sweat!). I think you liked it a bit more than me, though!

Amy said...

How interesting. I've skipped other reviews of this book, thinking it wasn't really my thing. But it sounds like it might be better than I thought :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

I actually ended up with two copies of this book somehow, and I do really want to read it before I die. (Next year, damn it, I am reading what I want.) This is just the type of story I like.

Marie said...

OMG, I actually started this one a while ago & put it down and lost my copy. I'm going to have to dig through the piles & find it!

Suko said...

Annie must be the ultimate survivor, or else this book would probably be too horrific to read. I hope this book isn't based on a true story. Excellent review.

bermudaonion said...

I've seen mixed reviews for this one, but I suspect I'll love it too.

Amy said...

Yours is the best review I have read of this book yet! I love a book that pulls me in like this & keeps me hooked til the very end. I thought this was one I wanted to read, now I am positive it is!

Thank you!

S. Krishna said...

I finished this book not too long ago as well and thought it was well done. Great review!

trish said...

YAY! So glad you liked it! I think you hit the book spot on in your review. I didn't like it quite as much only because I found the main character off-putting, but other than that, I thought it was fabulous.

nomadreader said...

You've convinced me to read this one. I'll take your advice and wait until I have time to devour it in one sitting though!

Melissa M said...

I enjoyed this one, and loved Annie's sarcastic tone.

Literary Feline said...

I wondered as I read the beginning of your review if it would come across as a too brutal read and so was glad you addressed that later on. It sounds like such an emotionally intense book as it is. I will have to add this one to my wish list. Thanks for another great review, Heather!

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