‘The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone’ by Felicity McLean
Fiction / Mystery
3 out of 5 stars
‘Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992, growing up in an isolated suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved. Now, years later, Tikka has returned home and is beginning to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her. The girls that she never forgot.’
Tikka returns home to Australia to visit her ill sister Laura, yet her return home brings her more than quality time with her family. Reminders of the sisters follow Tikka wherever she goes, and she is determined to uncover the truth. Flashbacks of that summer uncover the events leading up to the Van Apfel sisters running away, and we – like Tikka – are left questioning whether she should have stopped them. The combination of the present and past tense does make it a little confusing, and often I was unsure of the sequence of events. However, once the story unfolds you begin to piece these segments of the story together and it begins to make sense.
I went into this book expecting it to be more of a thriller, and initially I was disappointed that it wasn’t. If you’re thinking of reading this book don’t expect the mystery to be solved, as you’re left with a lot of questions after it has ended. I would say the story is more about how Tikka and her sister deal with the Van Apfel sister’s disappearance and keeping their secret. In this sense it is half mystery, half coming of age story. I normally prefer thrillers to mysteries – I like twists and turns in the story which keep you guessing, followed by a neat ending where you have all the answers you need. However, once I came to accept that the mystery probably wasn’t going to be solved I began to like the story more. I loved the development of characters, especially the interesting family dynamic of the Van Apfel’s, including the abusive dad, the bystander mother and the defiant Cordelia.
Overall a good, easy read, but I would have liked answers to some of my questions. What really was going on with their father? Was the teacher involved? And what happened to the girls after they ran away?
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Oneworld Publications!