Have you ever read a book that grabbed you with its premise, but let you down with its execution? I have. Like a million times. A million and one if you count my experience with Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten.
When I read the book's plot summary - a teenage girl follows clues to find her older sister, who disappeared two years ago - I immediately thought of The Amanda Project: Invisible i by Melissa Kantor. I love that kind of fun, clever mystery. Unfortunately, the alluring premise of Wherever Nina Lies only held me for a couple of chapters - then, the story started to get creepy-weird. It also seemed to be completely contrived, the plot held together by a string of very unconvincing coincidences. By the time I "met" the Jamies, I was ready to fling the book against the wall. I didn't because, in spite of myself, I wanted to know how the mystery ended (it wasn't satisfactorily either).
Basically, the story goes like this: Sixteen-year-old (I think she's 16) Ellie Wrigley can't get over the loss of her sister, who vanished without a trace two years ago. Nina was always a little wild - talking to any stranger who looked interesting, sneaking out at night, coming home smelling like a brewery, etc. - but she always returned home. Always. Then, she ran away or was kidnapped or something. Ellie's friends urge her to put the past behind her, to "get over" her sister's disappearance. Only, she can't.
When Ellie finds a picture sketched by Nina in an old book, she takes it as a sign. Nina's out there somewhere, leaving a trail of clues in her wake. A phone number leads to an old, abandoned mansion, where Ellie meets Sean, who's not just hot and funny, but also sympathetic to her plight. Together, they embark on a crazy road trip that Ellie prays will lead to her sister. As the miles churn by, the pair slowly pieces together the events leading up to Nina's disappearance. The more she investigates, the more Ellie realizes how much - and how little - she really knew about her sister. The realization also begins to dawn on Ellie that she, like Nina, might be in deep, deep trouble.
Sounds intriguing, right? And it is. I just wish the story had been plotted more carefully. I hate coincidence in mystery novels - it never, ever rings true. The heroine can't just happen to open a dusty old book and find a drawing, she can't just happen to use the restroom and spy her sister's handwriting among layers of graffiti, she can't just come across the two people in the world who know everything about an obscure band. Well, you get the idea - the story bugged.
I did finish the novel, but by the end I was only skimming. I wanted to find out what happened to Nina, I just didn't want to invest anymore time on it, you know? When the clues to a mystery are so lazily gathered, it usually means the "Big Reveal" isn't going to be anything amazing either. Bummer, that, because this story had all kinds of potential. Ah, well.
Wherever Nina Lies has been getting all kinds of buzz around the blogosphere - I'm just utterly confused as to why.
If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language, underrage drinking/partying, and sexual innuendo/content
To the FTC, with love: I received this book from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thanks!