Teenager Clara and her family have moved. Again. This time, they’ve landed in a town with its very own bogeyman feared by the local kids- The Mumbler. Soon, Clara learns about the legend while learning what makes her new friends tick and how many kids go missing in Pender during the month of October.
Gillian French excellently captures the voice of teenagers in her latest novel. I was transformed into a younger self during the reading experience and found myself really getting into 15-year-old drama that was unfolding in the book. The narrative itself is truly focused on adolescent relationships rather than adolescent fear of the so called Mumbler. Readers in the 13-16 year old range would find a peer within Clara, a self-admitted normal girl who’s messed up her hair with dye and can’t be bothered to fix it. Her inner thoughts are genuine and her concern for her girlfriends and boyfriend are those of any red-blooded American teenager.
As for the story itself, I was a bit let down by the lack of tension and action (action meaning events other than discussions about boys and crushes). With a title like The Missing Season and a urban legend-esqe monster at the disposal, there could have been far more darker elements that would pass the PG-13 rating. Like it or not, teenagers are more exposed and more brazen to reality and sometimes, reality is dark. That’s not to say that their reading content needs to be pushing the line- it just needs to be slightly closer to that line. There were missed opportunities for scares and tension, so this story wasn’t honest to goodness YA horror. The final act was also too abrupt for any type of story; if a reader has spent hours with the protagonists and gets to know their reasoning/actions, then they’ll want a little quality time with the antagonists, too. Their modus operandi and identity shouldn’t be wrapped up within a couple pages-give them some time to unfurl and really show us their “true” selves. Let us be disgusted and frightened by them and don’t cheat us by whisking them away so quickly.
The Missing Season is set during the best part of the year (Halloween, ahem) and while it doesn’t go full blow decorations and playlists, it does have enough environmental elements to set the mood. YA readers who aren’t looking for a serious scare or an accessible page turner drama will get a kick out of this novel.
The Missing Season is now available wherever books are sold.