In August of 1999, dazzlingly popular cheerleader Clarissa Campbell disappears from a party in the woods outside the rural town of Oreville, Washington and is never seen again. The police question her friends, teachers, and the adults who knew her—who all have something to hide. And thanks to Clarissa’s beauty, the mystery captures the attention of the nation. But with no leads and no body, the case soon grows cold. Despite the efforts of internet sleuths and true-crime aficionados, Clarissa is never found—dead or alive.
Over twenty years later, Oreville high-school juniors and best friends Blair and Cameron start a true crime podcast, determined to unravel the story of what—or who—happened to this rural urban legend. In the process they uncover a nest of dirty small-town secrets…
But does an ugly history with a missing girl make him guilty of murder? Or are two teenage girls about to destroy the life of an innocent man—and help the true killer walk free?
Missing Clarissa (Amazon US) (Audible.com) is the story of two teens in a town of about 20,000 people, who have grown up hearing stories about a teen who disappeared one night in 1999. The case has never been solved. Cam and Blair decide to make a podcast about the disappearance for their journalism project; they have no idea how many people want this case to go away.
I very much enjoyed the characterizations of the main characters. Cam is highly intelligent, raised by a single mom, a minority in a mostly white town, socially awkward, and in the closet to her mom and friends. Blair is a pretty girl who is dating the school’s basketball star, and she thinks any day people are going to find out she’s really not that interesting. She has such low self-esteem, she’s never shown anyone her writing, which is what she wants to do with her life. Her parents are very traditional and keep her on a tight leash. You really get the small town feeling as the teens investigate and upload their podcasts, frequently being referred to as “Nancys Drew,” which I got a kick out of, of course.
The young ladies’ investigation into the disappearance of Clarissa starts off slow, with neither of them knowing who to interview or what to ask them when they do figure that out. As a teen journalist-wannabee, I remember the same feelings the girls feel, but naive enough to not let that stop them from charging forward. The girls get a few key players in the disappearance to talk: Clarissa’s mother, who still lives in a fantasy world that Clarissa is out there somewhere, Allen, a geeky man who was friendly with Clarissa back in high school and was helpful to her parents in the months following her disappearance, the boyfriend, who was the only suspect police pursued at the time, the best friend, recently returned to the area, their journalism teacher, who, it turns out, was the reporter for the local paper at the time of Clarissa’s disappearance, the sheriff, who was the lead officer on the case, and a major artist, who was the art teacher at the high school in 1999. Almost all reveal parts of Clarissa’s personality that never seemed to make it into the national coverage that the case received when it first happened and in subsequent years.
I figured out who the murderer was as soon as the character was introduced, yet that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the teens’ journey to find out what really happened to the popular teen.
There is a substory worth mentioning about the indigenous people of the area and wish the author had gone a little more in-depth with the discussions the young ladies were having about the subject. It seemed out-of-place at first, but then it was brought up again by Cam’s love interest. I wish the book was a tad longer to explore something so important.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley and Wednesday books through St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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