REVIEW: DON’T TRY TO FIND ME, BY HOLLY BROWN

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When fourteen-year-old Marley Willits disappeared, she left behind a brief and vague message on the whiteboard that stated “don’t try to find me.”

From the message, the police conclude that there was no way to be sure she had gone voluntarily, so almost immediately, their questions seemed to zoom in on the possibility that someone else made her disappear. Perhaps even someone in the family.

Paul and Rachel look like the perfect parents, but right away, Paul starts to look more perfect than Rachel, because he is aggressively creating a media blitz, including a website called FindMarley.com. And the interviewers seem to love him.

Why does Rachel let him take over with his voice and his agenda, and dismiss hers? What is it about the relationship between these two that fuels the speculative comments and tweets? Is Rachel guilty of something? Or has she simply given in to the power of Paul’s spin? Has the power dynamic in their relationship contributed to Marley’s disappearance? What role, if any, does Michael, Marley’s psychiatrist, play in what happened to Marley?

Alternately narrated in Rachel’s and Marley’s first person voices, we learn more very slowly, as the story unfolds. There is something very similar between the two in how they choose to relate to the people in their lives. Is something more malevolent going on? Is someone manipulating each of them?

Almost immediately I felt repulsed by Paul and the way he controlled everything, from the household to the media campaign. And in Marley’s new world, the one she has kept secret, her new boyfriend has many of these same qualities. While I felt empathy for Rachel and Marley, I also wanted them to speak up and use their voices. I also began to realize that I was only seeing their versions of reality, and perhaps they were not the most reliable narrators.

Don’t Try To Find Me: A Novel reveals what lies behind the facades: the secrets, the dynamics, the dysfunction. And the story seemingly springs from the headlines or a therapist’s case files, and as a result, we begin to question everything about this family. And then we have to wonder how the narratives of others might be guiding them and controlling our perceptions of reality, too.

An interesting journey, and while I wanted to find out the secrets and what was behind the facades, I started to feel a little manipulated, too. In the end, nothing was quite the way I thought it would be, and I felt a little cheated. But the author led the reader skillfully, showing us she is familiar with the terrain of family dysfunction. 4.0 stars.

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