Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

The Mystery of Hollow Places
by Rebecca Podos
Release Date: January 26th 2016
2016 Balzer & Bray
Ebook ARC: 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062373342
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It's the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as troubled waters.

When Imogene is seventeen, her father, now a famous author of medical mysteries, strikes out in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Neither Imogene's stepmother nor the police know where he could've gone, but Imogene is convinced he's looking for her mother. She decides to put to use the skills she's gleaned from a lifetime of her father's books to track down a woman she's never known, in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she's carried with her for her entire life. 

My Thoughts
The Mystery of Hollow Places is perhaps misleading in its title as it's more about the mystery of ourselves and trying to define ourselves through our past and present in order to head into the future full of confidence and verve. When Imogene's father suddenly disappeared in the middle of the night, Imogene is convinced her father left her a clue and wanted her to search for him by searching for her mother.  She naturally assumed the disappearance was about her father trying to put the family back together and was all about her, very selfish and egocentric thinking on her part.  The fact that her dad had a new wife, which could create all sorts of problems, never really entered into Imogene's thinking too much.

When I stopped thinking about this novel as a mystery novel, but more as a coming-to-age novel, I enjoyed it quite a bit more.  Many of the things Imogene did in order to find her mother were quite engaging, even if amateurish, which I think was the purpose.  However, it does show that if you really put your mind to something, you can accomplish quite a bit, and Imogene did accomplish quite a bit.

There were many themes running through this novel: family, trust, mental illness, betrayal to name some of the few.  I like how the author handled the mental illness side as Imogene's father seemed to suffer from bipolar disorder and perhaps has some alcohol issues as well.  I do wish the author had delved a bit more into this aspect of the novel as it would have had a profound effect on Imogene as she grew up and definitely shaped her personality. Giving us cursory glances into the past and how Imogene coped as a child was good, but I wanted more.  The solution to it all however, was made to sound as simple as 'take your pills and everything will be fine', something that really bothered me.  She also discusses Imogene's mother's mental illness, but we only get glimpses as to the actual problem. 

As for Imogene herself, there were many times when I disliked her character.  Imogene has this support system, her stepmother, her best friend Jessa, and she didn't really recognize them as such, but used them for her own ends, often treating them badly.  What I did like about Imogene was her self-reflection and her realization that the reason she doesn't really know other people in her class was her own fault, and her resolve to make it better when she is in college.  When she went too far in her treatment with her stepmom and Jessa, she realized that she kept pushing people away because it was easier than to allow people in.  Same with her crush.  It was easier to crush on someone you couldn't have because having him meant getting close to him, something that would have terrified her.  I'm so glad this book didn't turn into a romance; it would have ruined it. I liked Jessa the best, but I wish the author wouldn't have kept harping on her beauty. I get the author was comparing Jessa with Im, but after the first few times it got kind of annoying; and most people don't care about stuff like that if you make the characters interesting enough.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is definitely not what I was expecting; I thought I was going to read a crime novel that would reveal some underlying secrets about Im's mom and dad.  What I got was a neat story about a girl discovering who she was and coming to terms with that, and I enjoyed it a lot.  There was some discussion about family relationships, honestly, betrayal, mental illness, friendship, and trust, and while the author only touched on many of these issues, it was a good way to show us how all of these things shape us into who we are.  While the resolution to the story was a bit too pat for my taste, and just kind of ended, the rest of the story was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages.