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I Belong

Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

Title: The Disappearances

Author: Emily Bain Murphy

Genre: YA Fantasy/Mystery

Series: N/A

Publication Date: July 4, 2017

Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0544879368 (HMH)

ISBN-13: 978-0544879362 (HMH)

Reviewed by: Tara


What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Quick & Dirty: After her mother’s death, a young girl begins to unravel the mysteries of her new home and her mother’s past in this spellbinding debut.

Opening Sentence: I want something of hers.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

This debut novel utterly dazzled me. Atmospheric and beautifully written, The Disappearances combines Shakespeare with mystery in a unique and fascinating way. When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Then I kept reading and was entirely sucked into the web of secrets, hurts, and disappearances that make up the core of this novel. It was magical and fantastical and I loved every minute I spent reading it. Although this book should come with a warning – after I finished reading it, I immediately wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s plays.

I hadn’t expected this novel to be historical fiction but it truly worked for this storyline. The author obviously did a significant amount of research both into the time period and Shakespeare’s plays, everything felt authentic and entirely believable. The symbolism and layers of meaning contained in this book would make even the Bard proud. The pacing of the plot was sometimes a little slow for me but the writing was so beautiful that I didn’t really mind. The idea of the “Disappearances” and the curse intrigued the side of me that loves mysteries while the Variants appealed to the part of me that loves fantasy. Add in the fact that it’s WWII historical fiction and it had everything I want in a book. While this book may not be for all readers, I think that the mix of genres is well-done enough that most readers will find something they can connect to.

When I first met Aila Quinn, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like her. As the story progressed and I saw how she grew up, I fell in love. Her relationship with her brother rang so true for me and their interactions were some of my favorites in the book. Even the secondary characters were well-developed and the development of the antagonists was some of the best that I’ve read lately. At one point I was worried that Murphy would fall into the trap of having the pretty, rich girl be one-dimensional and mean just for the sake of being mean. I was so glad that I was wrong. For those of you wondering, yes, there is romance. And it’s wonderful.

 The Disappearances was one of the best debut novels I’ve read this year. It transported me into another world, where magic can be found in the unlikeliest of places. I would highly recommend this novel.

Notable Scene:

There’s a long pause, and I wonder if the conversation is over. But then Mrs. Cliffton asks softly, “Do you really think we made a mistake?”

“No,” Dr. Cliffton says. “Well, I don’t know,” he clarifies. “Let’s just hope Sterling treats them better than it treated Juliet at the end.”

The hair on the back of my neck prickles. I lean forward, pre- tending to look at my reflection in the fountain, waiting for him to elaborate.

But I don’t see anything. The water is cool and clear and dark. No stars or moon reflect above me. I wave my hand above the water, but it is opaque. Blank. As though I have disappeared.

I stumble backwards into the steadying bricks of the house. What is this place?
“Juliet must not have wanted them to know, if she never told them,” Dr. Cliffton says. I gulp at the night air, barely able to hear his voice over the thundering of my own heart. “But now that they’re here, Sterling isn’t going to hold on to her secrets for long before it starts giving them up.”


FTC Advisory: HMH Books for Young Readers provided me with a copy of The Disappearances. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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