on April 27, 2010
Still Missing / 978-0-312-59567-8
Annie O'Sullivan is trying to put her life back together since the year of hell she spent captive in the mountains in the hands of a controlling psychopath, but every day she feels closer to the edge, completely ready to snap from the fear, grief, guilt, and horror that she lives with. Finally, she's decided that she needs help and is seeking professional counseling in order to tell her story for the first time. And yet, the story she is telling may not be completely finished: the case is far from closed, and the police are beginning to believe that she may still be in danger...
I cannot praise this book enough - debut author Stevens skillfully weaves a story of utter horror as we follow Annie through her year of captivity, and through the days that follow as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Annie is the perfect protagonist as the reader will almost certainly identify instantly with her - having seen the occasional episode of "CSI" and "Law & Order", she intellectually knows all the things an abducted woman "should" do, and yet faced with the impossibility of her situation, she finds that all she really *can* do is just hold on and survive. Rarely have I seen a female protagonist characterized so fully and completely as a strong, vulnerable, realistic woman caught in an utterly impossible situation, and Stevens should be congratulated for so thoroughly and carefully characterizing Annie to the point where every pain inflicted on her is felt acutely by the reader.
If this were just a story of mentally reliving a year of captivity whilst trying to pick up the pieces back home, it would still be powerful and compelling enough to deserve a read, but in the second half, Stevens ratchets up the pace with a hair-raising investigation that keeps the reader constantly on the edge of their seat as they wonder, with Annie, whether her captivity was just the most monumental bad luck, or if she was chosen for a reason...and if she might still be in danger. As Annie, and the reader, struggle to sort out PTSD-induced paranoia from the emerging facts, Stevens carefully doles out more and more delightful tension and anticipation, up to the final, absolutely soul-searing conclusion.
I cannot think of anything to criticize about this novel. Annie's mental state after her captivity is realistic, and treated with intelligence, sympathy, and dignity. Her personality contains realistic and endearing flaws, and Stevens shows a shrewd understanding in creating sympathetic characters who can be mistaken, incorrect, or outright wrong without invalidating their inherent value as people. The supporting characters - the best friend, the boyfriend, the mother, the investigator, and even the abductor - are all beautifully and carefully fleshed out, and it is a true delight to read a novel entirely populated with well-crafted, three-dimensional characters.
In the end, all you really need to know is that I finished this 340-page novel in record time, struggled to put it down when "real life" required that I do so, absolutely loved every page from start to finish, and am already eyeing it with thoughts towards reading it again when I go on vacation this summer. I won't say this book didn't give me nightmares, but I will say it was completely worth it.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
on July 9, 2010
THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
I've been waiting for months for Still Missing to be released. With all of the advance press and buzz it has been generating, people have been writing tons of reviews containing intimate story details that I didn't want to hear about before reading the book, and I've found it very difficult to keep forcing myself not to read them. So I won't do that to you in this review.
What is commonly known about Still Missing is that it is focused around Annie, a Realtor, who is abducted while running an open house. When I started the book, I expected the entire story to be about the abduction, her survival, and eventual escape. I was wrong. The abduction, and her survival through it (and being that the book is written in the first person as Annie talks to her therapist, the fact that she survives is no secret) is only half of the book. It's the vivid and introspective view into what happens to Annie AFTER the abduction, including some completely unexpected plot twists, where the story gets interesting.
Annie is a raw person. The author has spent a great deal of time developing Annie's psychology and internal thought processes, and this is shared with the reader, making Annie a three-dimensional person with real feelings and a real life. She says what is on her mind, and she doesn't hold back. She has the ability to utilize language you would expect of a truck driver, and uses it as she sees fit. But she is not crude - she is a sharp-witted, intelligent, smart-mouthed survivor whose brilliant comebacks often had me laughing out loud. I fell in love with Annie, her damaged psyche notwithstanding. Still Missing is told in the first person, and the reader really gets to feel as though they are a part of Annie's mind. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew her as a real person. For these horrible things to be happening to someone who I felt I knew, was almost unbearable.
And that's the beauty of Still Missing. Yes, there are some grisly details - there has to be, in order for the reader to be able to understand Annie's justifications, and realize the true horror of the situation. However, these are masterfully intermixed with different, saner events within the story's timeline, filling out the background story and the characters involved. This gives the reader a rest from the horror - but that doesn't mean that you won't be blindsided around the next corner!
Eventually the flashback timeline joins the present day timeline, and just when you think you've got the story figured out, and are expecting things to wind down - some totally unexpected plot twists are thrown your way. Annie's adaptation to these plot twists make for my favorite part of the story - they really show what she is truly made of.
Still Missing is publicized as being "unputdownable" and this statement is truth in advertising. I could not put down this book, I HAD to know what was going to happen next. Practically everywhere you look, popular summer reading lists are proclaiming Still Missing as the "book of the summer" - and with good reason. Reading articles online about Still Missing, I saw that this is Chevy Stevens' debut novel, and on the strength of it she was signed to a three-book deal: a virtually unheard-of event. The publisher has mounted a massive campaign behind it, and rights to the book have been sold worldwide. There is a very good reason for all of this: Still Missing is a GREAT BOOK!
Will Still Missing appeal to you? I am a middle-aged family man. I loved the book. My wife loved the book. In fact, I haven't met anyone who didn't love this book. It left me thinking about it for days afterward - and to me, that is the indication that I have just read something great. I would recommend it to anyone.
Let me begin by saying that if you have delicate sensibilities or a weak stomach you may want to think hard before choosing to read 'Still Missing' because this book is disturbing and eviscerating. While reading I kept flashing back to 'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold, not because the two stories have any correlation to each other, but because the feelings they elicited in me, physical and emotional, were similar.
In a series of sessions with her therapist Annie O'Sullivan recounts her yearlong ordeal of being held hostage in a mountain cabin and being raped, beaten, and controlled by the psychopath who kidnapped her. She also explains what it's like trying to piece together her broken life and in the process she learns an unsettling truth about her family.
Superficially the writing is simple, but Annie's words were potent and explicit. Her voice was distinctive and genuine, her candor was raw, and her descriptions vivid. In one breath you can be left shuddering and gasping for air and in the next chuckling. Even when you're afraid to turn the page, afraid to learn what you know and dread is coming, you can't help yourself. All the while you're hoping for some miracle to happen and set the poor woman free from both her captor and herself.
The only complaints I had were with consistency--a few references to a past moment or an individual were inexplicably altered without warning (I'd offer some examples, but they would be spoilers)--and a few of the psychological elements were too convenient, so convenient as to seem trite. But as a whole, these gripes were minor. Ultimately this is a haunting book, a buoy of hope in the sea of literary mediocrity, which one will need to steel oneself in order to read, but the end result is worth it.
on August 23, 2010
Still Missing was a definite page-turner for me....until the story took a turn to soap opera drama. The author kept my undivided attention all through the time Annie was abducted. Even after she came home and tried to piece her life back together. I was disappointed with Annie and Gary's relationship. The whole "love making" scene was far too unbelievable, as was the reason and people involved in the abduction. Darn! I hate when an author hooks and reels me in, only for a huge let down half way through.
on September 11, 2010
I agree with most of the comments here - the book is a page turner that hooks you quickly with the jacket description and leads you along a terrifying and suspense filled journey. The book starts promising enough - told through therapy session flashbacks - Annie describes her year in captivity and her life since.
The writing is pretty simplistic which isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes you don't need elaborate paragraphs to get your point across. The way it's written though makes Annie come across much younger than her thirty-plus years (if I remember correctly - she's 32). At times, the way she talks sounds like a bitter teenager. If it weren't for the graphic portions and storyline of the novel you might even assume this was young adult fiction.
I loved the first half of the book - Annie's account of being kidnapped and learning to survive - is heart wrenching. It's easy to see the strength in her that she no longer believes she has. And even though you know somehow she's gotten away you are left looking for clues on how she escaped and why she was taken. And then like most books about halfway through Stevens starts to loose steam. The plot twist is thrown in and I think the book is at that point thrown off course. To me it no longer became believable and turned more into a soap opera/TV movie. I won't give anything away but the plot twist is very disappointing and could have been differently.
Since I don't necessarily think this is a book you would want to read over and over - I'd have to say you're money is probably better spent elsewhere and to check it out at the library (sorry Amazon).
This highly readable, first-person debut novel details 30-something realtor Annie O'Sullivan's abduction, the year she spent as a psychopath's prisoner, and the steps of healing she takes as she tells the story to her psychiatrist. I read this novel quickly, driven by its questions--what will the Freak, as Annie dubs her kidnapper, do to her next? How will she escape? What plot twists (promised by the marketing copy) await me? Then I thought over the events and craft of the story, and within a day or two, was less impressed than I had been while reading.
First, the good stuff. Any book that can make me forget to edit it has something going for it. Tension crackles on nearly every page of this book. The protagonist's voice is genuine enough to remind me of someone I know, and I did root for Annie, despite her (understandably) difficult attitude. I wanted her to emerge from her ordeal stronger. Gary (cop who headed the search for her)'s mostly untold story intrigued me. The narrative method, which ping-pongs chronologically as Annie tells her psychiatrist what happened to her "then" and what is still happening "now," interested me. I can't disagree with the reviewers who found this method ultimately stifling of the story, even producing a few contrivances, but I didn't mind; again, I was just barreling through as fast as I could to get to the end.
Then the end came, and I put the book down. And began to question. Are the psychiatrist sessions good craft, or gimmick? I'm not sure. Did the story ever grab me emotionally, or was I engrossed purely on an intellectual (and almost voyeuristic) level? I'm leaning toward the latter. And the biggest question: why didn't the Freak scare me? Yes, he was disgusting, but he wasn't terrifying. My theory is that he failed to terrify me because he failed to come fully alive, to convince me he could be out walking the earth somewhere. His motivations didn't always ring true; he came across as a mixed bag of pathologies rather than a depraved human being. For example, the shaving compulsion made psychological sense, given his history with his mother. However, his desire to have a child seemed to contradict that history; and his aversion to society really didn't fit at all. Granted, I'm not a psychologist; but I was aware at times that the author isn't one, either (times when I shouldn't have been aware of the author at all). One last thing that I didn't plan to mention but see that a few other reviewers did, so I feel validated in agreeing: the amount of profanity was a little ridiculous. Really, Ms. Stevens, there are other ways to depict character frustration.
For its readable voice, and for dragging me by the scruff of my neck through a taut psychological roller coaster, two stars aren't enough for STILL MISSING. But for failing to squeeze my heart with the humanity of its cast, and for failing to be a book I would read twice, four stars are too many. Still, I might read Chevy Stevens again, depending on the subject of her next work.
Annie O'Sullivan was a successful realtor until the day a man abducted her and kept her captive in a remote mountain cabin for a year. Now Annie's so traumatized, she sleeps in her closet and can't work. In 26 sessions with her therapist, the whole twisted story comes out.
Through most of this novel, I wasn't sure I liked it. It's riveting reading, yes, but it is also extremely disturbing and not for the faint of heart (or young teens). But then, once the big twist was revealed, I was blown away by how well the whole story was crafted.
Annie's nickname for her abductor is The Freak, and it is apt. He is a terrifying guy with deep psychological issues and very strict rules. Crossing him by say, using the bathroom at a non-scheduled time, can lead to bizarre punishments such as having to drink from the toilet. What puzzles her is just how much he seems to know about her and her family, leading her to think that his crime was not random and that even if she escapes him, there may be someone else out to get her...
Annie's experience changes her a lot - so much so that I almost couldn't recognize the broken woman swearing at her shrink and shrinking away from her friends and family as the same independent woman we see in her "flashbacks". Not only is this a fascinating character study, it is also a very satisfying thriller with a shock ending. Highly recommended!
on April 11, 2015
Still Missing isn't awful -- it will hook you instantly, however, once you're 50 pages in it becomes grueling, repetitive, and the author bursts in like a 70's game show host slapped in a kaleidoscope of revolving white light.
A realtor named Annie is kidnapped at an open house event and is taken to a cabin where she remains a prisoner for a year. In every chapter Annie recounts her horrific ordeal in grisly graphic detail to an invisible therapist. Annie's abductor, a man she refers to only as 'The Freak' is a homicidal obsessive compulsive sadist with a possible oedipal complex. He loathes Christmas, body hair, and whores. He enjoys long candlelit baths, floaty dresses, and blurting out Rolling Stones lyrics.
My main problems with this novel are:
1. Annie's voice. She is understandably bitter and furious over her ordeal however her voice is incredibly cliched and has a profanity peppered, kick your butt bravado that makes her sound like a rebellious teen sporting a black leather jacket, shredded jeans and a Miley Cyrus tattoo. I wanted to like her, I wanted to believe her but I could see the author writing her lines -- stuffing her full of brawny responses and labored expressions.
2. The plot atrophies FAST. You want to know if Annie survives which is the reason I read on but once again, I could feel the author lurking, her pretty face and dark hair casting a shadow over the text. The author is supposed to vanish, like a choreographer when a ballet begins. But she was right there in the cabin with Annie and The Freak. She was a member of the modest cast, sitting in a corner of the cabin with her computer, staring at her creations with a thought bubble hoovering over her hairline. It was impossible to get rid of her. She paused the action like a director. She sliced her arm through the air and belted out cut. She applied make-up to Annie's face and spritzed "The Freak" so he would glisten after exerting himself. When the plot really skids to a halt the three of them might as well have sat down and had some coffee and donuts, Chevy bouncing off ideas about what "The Freak' should do next to disgust Annie or what Annie could do to piss off the highly mercurial freak.Yes, I saw it. I saw the author and the characters interacting. I saw the heaps of fake foliage, the unbreakable cabin door you could kick down with your bare foot and Annie slinging a Prada handbag over her shoulder and clomping out of the author's brain for the day.
I will say the other thing that truly bothered me about this novel were the scenes involving animals. SPOILER ALERT: If you are disturbed by animals being savagely eviscerated, skinned or mutilated I would definitely avoid this novel. Yes, I didn't believe it was happening since I could see the author furtively dragging in a deer carcass, however I truly detest reading about such things just as I hated stumbling upon the broiled bunny in Fatal Attraction.
Still Missing isn't good but it isn't totally torturous or unreadable. I felt the book was raw and that the author needed to create fresher characters that didn't seem so artificial and calculated. If you'd like to read an absolutely brilliant thriller about a psychopath who abducts a young woman and keeps her captive I highly recommend reading The Collector by the extraordinary John Fowles.
on July 9, 2010
Chevy Stevens abducted me with her remarkable debut novel. Holding me hostage from the first page until long after the last one. Annie's story has stayed with me.
The plotline was terrific, Chevy deftly handles all the story threads without difficulty. Annie tells her horrific kidnapping story in first person to her shrink. An honest, brutal, tragic story the first person POV makes it cut to the bone. Initially, on her arrival back home she cuts herself off from all the people whose contact she so craved during her yearlong isolation. How can anyone else comprehend what she has endured for the last year? Certainly not her alcoholic, egocentric mother, her unsuccessful stepfather, her passive boyfriend or the steamroller of a best friend, they are part of her "before" life. Annie is ashamed of what she had to do and endure just to stay alive. As a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder victim, she finds it incredibly difficult to adjust to "life after". The PTSD makes her a shadow of her former self, her real self, her real life "Still Missing". Not spending the night in the hallway closet is a personal victory. Confronting personal Paranoia is part of the long readjustment process. Reality is even more difficult to confront in the second half of the book. The pacing of the entire book was perfect. Twists along the way brought unexpected surprises.
This was a visceral read for me. Not since the early works of Dean Koontz (esp. "Intensity") has a book provoked this type of response. I highly recommend this read for "thriller/suspense/crime" fans, just don't make any plans to do anything else.
It almost made me sleep in the hallway closet.
Enjoy the read!
on August 31, 2010
While the first few hundred pages of this book were riveting and kept you invested and wanting to know, the ending ruined the entire experience and left you feeling you just wasted your time. The whole "resolution" was not believable and was stupid, a cop-out, and actually embarrassing. C'mon, the author and her advisers could have come up with an ending that the rest of the book, not to mention the reader, deserved.