By Sue Whiting
$17.99, paperback, Walker Books
Missing persons is a difficult subject matter in more ways than one. Not only is it heavy and heart-
breaking, but from a narrative point of view, it can be difficult to stop the story from getting bogged down and for the plot to stall. There are no such issues however in this early-YA novel by Sue Whiting, in which the mother of seventh grader Mackenzie da Luca fails to return from a working trip to Panama. Chapters alternate between a Sydney setting, from around the time Mackenzie’s mum goes missing, to present time when Mackenzie and her father fly to search in Panama. The sense of possibility in the Panama chapters provides balance for the more passive Sydney chapters and the hopelessness felt as Mackenzie tries to continue on with school and life in general, all the while internally speculating about what’s happened to her mother. There’s interaction between the sections too, with one providing insight into where Mackenzie and her father end up, emotionally and in their thinking. The picture Whiting paints of Panama is convincing, too (although note, I like her, have never been there!). A compelling read.
Angie Schiavone has a Master of Arts in Children's Literature and is the former children's book reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald. She has been a judge for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards, a restaurant reviewer and editor for the Good Food Guide, and a cookbook editor. She's also a mum to two book and food-loving kids.
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