TITLE: You Must Not Miss
AUTHOR: Katrina Leno
AGE RANGE: YA
Magpie Lewis started writing in her yellow notebook the day her family self-destructed. That was the night Eryn, Magpie’s sister, skipped town and left her to fend for herself. That was the night of Brandon Phipp’s party.
Now, Magpie is called a slut whenever she walks down the hallways of her high school, her former best friend won’t speak to her, and she spends her lunch period with a group of misfits who’ve all been socially exiled like she has. And so, feeling trapped and forgotten, Magpie retreats to her notebook, dreaming up a place called Near.
If you give a name to an impossible thing, does it make the impossible thing any less impossible?
This is a tough review to write, because I genuinely cannot remember the last time I had such mixed feelings about any singular book. There was a lot to love about You Must Not Miss, and a little bit that didn’t work for me, and so much that I’ve yet to make up my mind about, even now, almost a month after finishing it. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been sitting on this for a month in hopes of putting my thoughts together in some reasonable order, and I’m still struggling.
Your despair made Near. You felt so deeply, and for so long, that your very sadness grew limbs and walked away from you.
First, the atmosphere in this book is beyond incredible. There’s a thick fog of melancholy and hopelessness overlaying the entire story, even in the happiest moments, and it left me reeling every time I closed the book. It’s like some sort of weird trip, and it actually left me in a really bizarre headspace for a few days after finishing it. There’s also a dark, creepy vibe to the second half of the book, and if you know me, you know I love unexpectedly creepy twists in otherwise non-threatening stories.
Good. Let it be scared. Let everyone be scared of the things Magpie could do to them.
Next, we have the subject matter and the way it’s approached; we’re kept in the dark for much of the story about what exactly has happened to ruin Magpie’s best-friendship with Allison, her former bestie, and what has turned her into some sort of vague pariah in her school, but we’re immediately made aware that her father has destroyed their family with an affair, and her sister has left her high and dry. She’s totally alone, and it’s painful to read, especially once the “big reveal” occurs (and was precisely what I thought it would be, though it hurt my heart just as much).
It did not escape Magpie that a thing casting a shadow must be a thing with some degree of realness to it.
There’s also the downright weirdness of Leno’s writing to consider that it makes it even tougher to rate this. The narrative voice reminded me of one of my all-time favorite authors (I try not to name-drop unrelated works in reviews, but I have to say that I think fans of the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire would dig this writing style like I did). So, the atmosphere is great, the plot is touching, the writing voice is excellent — oh, AND there’s some really great trans rep in the love interest! So… If you’re anything like me, at this point of this review, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, what’s the problem?!”
She hadn’t meant it to be so honest, so prickling and sharp, but there it was. Prickling and sharp and oh so honest.
Magpie. Magpie is the problem. I don’t believe I have ever so thoroughly enjoyed every single aspect of a book while disliking a main character so much, but here we are. I found her painfully bland in the first half of the story, and cruel in the second. Some of the decisions she makes are brutal and cold-hearted, but I could get behind them — I’ll never have a problem with protagonists seeking revenge, to put it bluntly. My issue was how she treated the people who loved her. There were characters in this story who genuinely cared for Magpie and wanted to do right by her and to help her, and she consistently took advantage of them and left them out to dry while she lost herself in her trauma and need for revenge. I want to chalk this up to her mental state and forgive her for it, but in the end, I couldn’t do it, and that alone is almost enough to knock this down to 3 stars for me.
In the end, I decided to give this 3.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads’ sake. It didn’t feel fair to lower this to 3 stars when there was so much I genuinely did like, but the one thing I struggled with made this a slog to read (it took me over a month to finish this book, when it’s short enough that I could have read it in a day otherwise!), left me frustrated more often than not, and made me wonder if it’s just Magpie’s character, or if Katrina Leno’s characters in general are going to leave me with this disappointment. I certainly hope not, because her writing voice alone is enough to have me wanting more, but I’m sad to say that You Must Not Miss definitely missed (sorry) the mark on my expectations.
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
twitter | bookstagram | facebook | goodreads