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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 364

Strikingly contemporary, Norman Fox Mazer's The Missing Girl, published in 2008, is at once a sensitive portrayal of a poor family of five sisters, and a breathtaking thriller, as one of them is stalked and eventually kidnapped by a pedophile. Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy, and Autumn Herbert live in the...

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Strikingly contemporary, Norman Fox Mazer's The Missing Girl, published in 2008, is at once a sensitive portrayal of a poor family of five sisters, and a breathtaking thriller, as one of them is stalked and eventually kidnapped by a pedophile. Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy, and Autumn Herbert live in the small town of Mallory in the northern part of New York State, and walk together everyday to and from the local school. Ironically, at seventeen, Beauty, the oldest, is actually very plain, but dreams of moving away to pursue a life of her own and of finding someone to love her. Mim, who is sixteen, is quiet and sensible, lonely, but at peace with herself and her newly realized homosexuality. Faithful is fourteen, outgoing, impetuous, and mercurial, and has just announced to the family that she is changing her name to Stevie. Fancy, at age twelve, is clear-eyed and loving, a "special-needs" individual with delayed intellectual development who is friendly and garrulous, always affirmative and optimistic. The youngest sister, Autumn, is eleven, innocent and childlike, her sense of identity not yet established. Ominously, the girls are watched each day by an anonymous, middle-aged man who lives a double life. On the surface, his demeanor is unexceptional; he appears to be a normal person, holding down a job and interacting normally, albeit infrequently, with his coworkers. On the inside, however, he fantasizes about the Herbert sisters constantly, and eventually focuses his obsessive thoughts on Autumn.

The story is divided into short chapters narrated by alternating characters in a stream-of-consciousness mode. This stylistic device has the effect of allowing the reader to get to know each player in the drama well, as the girls share their hopes and aspirations with each other, and the chillingly ordinary but psychopathic villain engages in a running monologue with himself as he watches the sisters go through their daily routines. Despite its innovative construction, The Missing Girl is actually very simply written and easy to follow. The exposition progresses smoothly as the reader is drawn into the lives of the characters, and the pace reaches an almost frenetic level as Autumn is abducted, held prisoner, and finally engineers her own escape.

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