Desert Isle Keeper
A Girl Named Anna
Lizzy Barber’s A Girl Named Anna is a slow-building powerhouse of a story about two families who are linked by the disappearance of a little girl fifteen years before the book opens. Parts of the plot are a bit on the predictable side, but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
For long as Anna can remember, it’s been her and her mom against the world. Her mother might not be the warm and cuddly mother she’s seen on TV, but the two of them have an unbreakable bond just the same. On the day she turns eighteen, Anna disobeys her mother’s rules and visits Astroland, Florida’s biggest and most famous theme park. All her life, Anna has listened to her mother’s lectures about how to avoid sin and ensure a place in Heaven, but just this once, Anna wants to do something normal for her birthday.
As soon as she and her boyfriend enter the park, Anna begins to see flashes of what feel like memories from her past. Of course, they can’t be real memories since Anna has never been to Astroland before, but with every moment she spends in the park, the strange sense of familiarity grows stronger. Eventually, all of this becomes too much for Anna, and she leaves the park and returns home, only to discover a mysterious unsigned letter address to her. Who is the note from, and could there possibly be a connection between it and the flashbacks Anna has been experiencing?
Rosie has grown up very much in the shadow of her older sister, who disappeared when Rosie was still an infant. Emily’s disappearance has forever scarred her family, and now, as the fifteenth anniversary of her abduction draws near, Rosie finds herself once again shoved into the limelight as her parents plead for information about their missing daughter. Rosie has mixed feelings about all of this. Obviously, she wants to learn what happened to Emily all those years ago, but she also wants a chance at a normal life, a life that hasn’t been marred by tragedy.
The story is told in alternating chapters from the point of view of both girls, and it didn’t take me very long at all to figure out that Anna and Emily are the same person. (This isn’t a spoiler – it’s revealed early on.) Normally, I would have been a little disgusted with a mystery that felt so obvious, but Ms. Barber managed to keep me fully engaged. Uncovering Anna’s true identity is only the very tip of the iceberg, and I flew through this book to learn the answers to the numerous questions about what really happened on the day Emily disappeared.
Both Anna and Rosie are likable heroines, and I was especially pleased with the amount of depth the author gives to each of them. They’re both dealing with a lot of unknowns, and Ms. Barber captures their uncertainty beautifully. These are characters who are fully fleshed out, the kind of people I could easily imagine meeting on the street.
This is one of the darkest thrillers I’ve read in some time. I can’t say too much about what makes it dark without spoiling things, but please don’t go into this book expecting it to be an easy read. Instead, be prepared to be well and truly creeped out in places. I actually found it difficult to fall asleep after finishing the story. The plight of the characters just wouldn’t leave my head.
A Girl Named Anna is the first book I’ve read by Lizzy Barber, but I definitely plan to seek out more of her work in the not too distant future. She’s an author I’m glad to have discovered, and I urge fans of intensely plotted thrillers to give this book a shot.