I love a good mystery story, but I admit to being kind of picky in my literary detectives. The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos was intriguing enough in its premise that I knew I wanted to read it.
Imogene has no memory of her mother. All she has the story fanciful story her father has told her since she was little of how they met and fell in love. Her father was a forensic pathologist and her mother was there to identify a body. When Imogene's father goes missing, he believes one clue behind with Imogene. A clue Imogene is convinced is meant to lead her to both her parents. With the help of her friend Imogene begins to look into her mother's past and follow a trail of clues that will hopefully lead her to the answers she's always pretended she didn't need.
Imogene has spent her entire life never getting too close to anyone. She convinced herself that her dad was enough. She didn't need the risk. As a result, Immogen looks at most of her relationships as mutualism. She has a pretty amazing best friend who she is judgmental and dismissive of most of the time. Until she needs her help. Imogene is incredibly selfish and self-centered. It makes her incredibly real, but also frustrating to be in her head sometimes. However, there was a lot about her I understood and appreciated too particularly regarding her relationship with books. And Podos does not allow Imogene to escape the consequences of her selfishness and has her grow from the things she learns about herself and her relationships with other people. Jessa may be a better best friend to Imogene than Imogene is to her, but I enjoyed watching Imogene realize that and see that growth. Lindi, her stepmom, also suffers from the walls Imogene has put up in her mind and heart against others. Their relationship also undergoes changes and Imogene's appreciation of her stepmother grows as the story progresses. I really enjoyed this book for these relationships in particular, but also that it was so much about relationships in general. I also thoroughly appreciated how the relationship between Imogene and Jessa's brother, Imogene's long time crush, resolved. It was a unique and refreshing thing to see in a YA novel.
Both Imogene's parents suffer from depression or a disease that influences their behavior and emotions. Not having experienced what either of them do, I can not speak to how well this is handled for their particular diagnoses. I do like how the book portrayed the need for and helpfulness of therapy and medication. It really stressed how bad it is to trust your emotions and thoughts and how important taking the meds for continued health are.
The mystery of the book is not nearly as important as Imogene's personal journey. She isn't the detective she thinks herself, but her investigation and the way the author revealed each piece of the puzzle kept me riveted and reading. My big problem with the book is the end is a little too wrapped up. I would have preferred the end without the very last chapter (which is very much an epilogue even if it's not really called an epilogue). Imogene's character development up to that point was clear. Enough was figured out and set in motion for a hopeful future. The last chapter overdid that. This made me sad as the book was incredibly well executed up to that point.
The Mystery of Hollow Places is a book I definitely recommend to those who enjoy good character stories and puzzles.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. The Mystery of Hollow Places is on sale January 26th.