29 March 2011

13. Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie

Girl, Missing is an exciting, fast moving adventure story for 11 - 15 year olds. It was published in 2006 and won a slew of children's book awards including the Red House Award. It was shortlisted for Carnegie and was on the Richard & Judy list as well. It is also massively popular in my school library, our copy is literally falling apart from being read so much. I finally got round to reading it when I booked the author, Sophie McKenzie, to visit our school in June.

The story follows 14 year old Lauren Matthews who was adopted when she was three. A school essay assignment entitled Who Am I? prompts her to start thinking about who she really is and her curiosity prompts her to browse a missing children website. She is unnerved to find a listing for Martha Lauren Purditt who went missing in America two months before Lauren was adopted with a photo that could be her. This starts the beginning of an adventure across America of Lauren searching for her birth parents.

The story moves incredibly fast, we don't have chapters and chapters of background and introductions, the action starts right at the beginning of the novel and we are already in American within the first few chapters. This is great for younger readers as the story is constantly moving forward and exciting. The novel covers sneaking onto flights, kidnapping, breaking and entering, dramatic boat journeys, corrupt adoption agents as well as a bit of romance as it turns out that Lauren's adoption wasn't quite as legitimate as she assumed and her parents know things they aren't telling her.

Whilst this does give away what happens a little, I think it is obvious that this is going to happen at the start, particularly to adult readers; Lauren does eventually find her birth parents and there is a slower paced section where Lauren deals with the reality of being reconnected with a family that doesn't really feel like family.

Girl, Missing covers a lot of interesting themes and gives young readers a lot to think about. Obviously adoption is the main theme but Sophie McKenzie takes this in a few directions; family relationships generally, selflessness and particularly the importance of taking responsibility for your own actions. Lauren is a flawed heroine who frequently doesn't think about the consquences of her actions for the people she cares about. It is satisfying to see her mature into the realisation of the importance of sometimes putting other peoples needs above your own and that real family is about more than genetics.

My only criticism is the fact that it's wildly unbelievable. This isn't necessarily something that would lessen enjoyment of it, it never claims to be gritty realism and in particular I don't think this will worry young readers.There is just a level of incredulity that Lauren is pulling this off - managing to sneak onto another flight without her mother knowing, breaking into an adoption agency at 14, finding her birth parents in a phone book and suchlike all without being found by anyone looking for her.
I would highly recommend Girl, Missing for the young adult audience and my borrowing figures for it show how popular it actually is. It probably would appeal more to girls although there is a strong male secondary character in Jam, Lauren's best friend who is constantly supporting her and also showing her how to be more selfless. It races along and is an exciting read but McKenzie manages to include some important ideas to think about as well.


  1. I've read this book! It's amazing! (: Amy

  2. it is a really fantastic novel which includes many themes that are easy to relate to and helps you relate to the character with ultimately makes the novel more enjoyable.
    Read it!

  3. I have just done a review of Sophie Mckenzie. Her books are amazing, and I would be very grateful if you could take a look at my blog and maybe subscribe? Thanks :)