Missing by Sue Whiting
Walker Books Australia, 2018. ISBN 9781760650032
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime, Adventure, Panama, Bats, Missing persons. When Mackenzie is told to pack and be ready to leave, she obeys her insistent father without demur, but once on the plane for Panama, she wants to talk to her Gran, the one stable thing in her life since her mother's disappearance five months ago. Told in alternate chapters, one in the present day as Kenzie and her father search for the woman in Panama, the other back in Sydney months before as concern builds after Mum's non appearance at the airport after photographing bats in South America.
Kenzie is about to go into secondary school, and her mother has insisted she go to a private girls' school, to be less distracted by the boys at the local state school. She is unhappy but with her mother gone, wants to do as she had planned for her. Her first day is unsettling, until she meets Billie. The two hit it off, partly because Billie does not ask about her mother.
In South America, Kenzie and her Dad go to Bouquete, the last place the woman was seen alive, and question again those who remembered seeing her. When Dad lands in hospital it is up to Kenzie to find out more information, and talking to a researcher in the town, finds that her mother spoke to him the day after the police thought she had disappeared. She gets on the bus, with Carlos from the hotel in her wake.
This is an engrossing read about one girl's search for her mother. Developed partly after Whiting read of the large numbers of missing people in Australia each year, she honed in on how the teenager would react and respond to such a crisis. She has succeeded, drawing us into Kenzie's world as she tries to make sense of all the things that happen around her, being buffeted from one thing to another. Whiting very successfully exposes the vacuum into which Kenzie falls, unable to trust anyone, scared and suspicious.
Australian author, Sue Whiting lives near Sydney and has won awards for several of her books, including Platypus and A swim in the sea.
This story would make a good class text, a great read aloud as well as a book to study.