Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Gripping, haunting, disturbing, shocking, and utterly brilliant. 

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens is a conversation between Annie O'Sullivan and her therapist.  Actually, it's not much a conversation, since the therapist isn't allowed to say anything or ask her any questions.  Annie tells her story of the day she was abducted and the year she spent trapped in a house with her abductor - a man she refers to as "The Freak".   Annie also talks about her life after her abduction, which sometimes feels worse than the year of her imprisonment - at least with the Freak, she knew what to expect each day, even if it was hell.

When I read, I use an index card as my bookmark, making notes and jotting down quotes I like.  Here are some of the words I have scrawled across my note card for Still Missing:

Fear - Horror - Terror - Hell - Powerless - Rage

I know I'm not supposed to quote an ARC (an unproofed Advanced Readers' Copy) but I just can't help myself.  I want to give you an idea of Chevy Stevens's ability to pull the reader into Annie's world, holding tight, and never letting go.

"When I wonder how I became the zombie I am now, how I could have gotten so lost, it always traces back to that moment - the moment I put my soul on the shelf to make room for the devil.".

We know Annie gets out of her horrific nightmare of imprisonment on the first page, but what we don't know is how hard it is for the horror to let her go.  She wants to heal, she wants to move on, but her life is changed forever, and coming home from a year of torture is only the beginning.  

There are really two story lines in this novel - the one of Annie's year with The Freak, and the one after her return.  Just when you think you can't handle another page of one story, Stevens artfully moves to the other story, moving along the plot and freeing the reader for a bit. 

I am amazed that this is a debut novel. The characters are so well crafted, the writing seems effortless, and the storyline is unforgettable.  The most impressive aspect of her writing is when Chevy Stevens manages to give Annie a sharp wit, a biting edge, which wasn't there before her abduction, but doesn't feel forced.

"There are all these books that say we create our own destiny and what we believe is what we manifest.  You're supposed to walk around with this perpetual bubble over your head thinking happy thoughts and then everything is going to be sunshine and roses.  Nope, sorry, don't think so.  You can be as happy as you've ever been in your life, and shit is still going to happen.
  But it doesn't just happen.  It knocks you sideways and crushes you into the ground, because you were stupid enough to believe in sunshine and roses."

My heart broke on page 66. My stomach turned on page 63. My heart stopped on page 151. I held my breath on page 186. I was enraged on page 328. And, when I turned the last page, and an ending I never saw coming, I actually broke down and sobbed. Chevy Stevens had taken me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, and I was completely and absolutely drained when it ended.

Still Missing affected me, and I feel like I've been carrying it around me since I turned the last page.  Be warned, though, this book is not for everyone.  My oldest and dearest friend, for example, is NOT allowed to read this book (did you hear that, Dan?).  She would never go anywhere alone ever again after reading this book, and we can't have that.  Off limits to her!  For everyone else that can handle a powerful, deeply emotional, intensely frightening novel, go read this book

 "I think people can be so crushed, so broken, that they'll never be anything more than a fragment of a whole person."

*Disclosure: I picked up an advance readers' copy of this book at BEA

Book Extras:
Author Chevy Stevens website

About the Book:
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (July 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312595670
ISBN-13: 978-0312595678

About the Author:
Chevy is the author of the novel STILL MISSING, which will be published July 2010 by St Martin’s Press. Chevy is now in the process of completing her second novel, NEVER KNOWING. If you’d like more information on both novels please visit the Books page. Please visit Chevy’s Blog to learn about her writing process and whatever else is on her mind!


Elisabeth said...

I loved this book, too! Alison, this is a great review of it. I'm currently hosting a giveaway for it - mind if I link to your review?

Alison's Book Marks said...

Thank you! Link away, Elisabeth!

Come back and feel free to leave the link to your contest!

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, here it is!

wisteria said...

Ok so I'm like your friend. I can never read this and I have it. EEK

bermudaonion said...

I love books that involve me on such a deep level. This book sounds fantastic, if somewhat disturbing) to me.

Alison's Book Marks said...

@wisteria - I will say that for me, just as it was *almost* too heavy, she shifts her story between the past and the present. I had to read very light books for a solid two weeks after - middle grade fiction, Janet Evanovich, humor, etc. Nothing heavy for a while. It took me some time to find my happy place again.

@Bermudaonion - Kathy, I would take the distubing on this one. It was so powerful that even now just thinking about it again gives me butterflies in my belly!

Molly said...

Each review I read for this book makes me realize how much I would enjoy it.

I LOVE your teaser method of listing page numbers with no text - I will have to favorite place this review and then return when I have finished the book to see if I experienced the same emotions.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I am just finishing up my review on this book today and wanted to link some other great thoughts on it. You wrote an excellent review here! Mine will go live in the next few days.

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