Friday, July 4, 2014

Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

If You Were Here
by Alafair Burke
Release Date: June 4th 2013
2013 Harper
Hardcover Edition;
ISBN: 9780062208354
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Magazine journalist McKenna Wright is chasing the latest urban folktale-the story of an unidentified woman who heroically pulled a teenaged boy from the subway tracks, seconds before an oncoming train. When McKenna locates a short video snippet that purportedly captures part of the incident, she thinks she has an edge on the competition scrambling to identify the mystery heroine.

She is shocked to discover that the woman in the video bears a strong resemblance to Susan Hauptmann, a close friend who disappeared without a trace a decade earlier. What would have been a short-lived metro story sends McKenna on a dangerous search for the missing woman, a twisting journey through New York City that will force her to unearth long-buried truths much closer to home-to her own husband, who seems to know much more about Susan than McKenna could have ever imagined...

My Thoughts
If You Were Here is one of those novels where I thought the writing was good, but the plot sort of fell flat for me.  I have read many of this author's previous novels and to be perfectly honest, I kind of feel the same thing about all of her books, the best being All Day and A Night (review forthcoming). They tend to be very plot-driven, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when the character development gets left behind, it can leave a novel feeling flat which has little effect on the reader.

The central character in this one is McKenna Jordan, a former District Attorney who left her job for exposing a corrupt police officer and who is now working as a journalist, who discovers a picture of a friend who went missing over ten years ago while perusing a video of young kid saved during a subway incident.  The plot centers around this woman, Susan, and the ongoing investigation of tracking her whereabouts after she disappears off the grid ten years earlier.  To be honest, the more I learned about Susan, the more I was willing to leave her alone as I didn't really empathize a whole lot with her situation and her problems.  This I blame on the writing as constant repetitions and various ambiguities kind of turned me off of Susan and her issues throughout the novel and I found myself in a position where I didn't really care too much if they found her.  I also found the situation between Patrick, McKenna's husband, and Susan to be slightly ridiculous, and found myself shaking my head.  I think the author was trying to make the novel too convoluted and didn't know what to do with some of the threads once they were spun, making some aspects of the novel a bit silly.  

If You Were Here is one of those novels I'm not sure I would recommend to other readers.  I would suggest reading some of her Ellie Hatcher novels first and then maybe tackle this one as you may not be willing to read another novel by Burke again.  I thought the plot was somewhat silly, although the writing was good, and I liked some of the introspections McKenna allowed herself as she came to some deep realizations about herself, her relationship with Patrick, and her relationship with some of the police officers and lawyers she had to work with.  I did feel some aspects of the novel were too drawn out, and I thought the ending went on forever.  Would I read another novel by this author?  I already did, so look for my review of All Day and a Night, coming soon.  It's just not necessarily this one I would recommend.  


  1. THe concept, at least, sounds interesting.

  2. The synopsis does sound compelling. I would not go out to get is but if I would find it in the library I might give it a try.

    1. And I would always advise anyone to always give any book a try; just because I wasn't crazy about doesn't mean someone else wouldn't love it. This is why I am always hesitant about my recommendations as I have always thought reading was personal and I always caution anyone to give something a try and not base an opinion on someone else's. If that was the case. I would have thought Twilight was the greatest book on earth, according to some of my students LOL

      Also, give Burke's series featuring Ellie Hatcher a try as I find them a bit more compelling with lots more character development; much more satisfying in the long run.