Published by HarperCollins on January 26th 2016
Genres: Mystery & Thriller, Young Adult
Buy on Amazon
The Mystery of Hollow Places is a gorgeously written, stunningly original novel of love, loss, and identity, from debut author Rebecca Podos.
All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist; she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed of a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”
Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.
There’s a reason for everything, if you look hard enough. An answer for every mystery.
The Mystery of Hollow Places is a strange book. It’s a psychological mystery written with an artistic flair – by that, I do not mean the prose is purplish, but that it is built up around carefully-woven metaphors for mental illness and depression. I liked Podos’s style very much.
The book’s opening chapter hooked me instantly. We hear of the bedtime story that Imogene was told by her father, a tale perhaps too impossible to be true, but one which sets the mood for the novel – that underlying feeling of sad, lonely emptiness we tend to call “depression”. But don’t worry; this is a not a dramatically depressing book. It is far too subtle and clever for that.
“She said this feeling inside her was . . . it was anti-feeling. Like a black hole in space, and everything—happiness, anger, hope, meaning—it would all get sucked in, tipped over the event horizon, and she couldn’t feel any of it.”
Imogene’s mother was a troubled woman who ran away from the family when Imogene was a baby. Now, years later, Imogene’s father (an author of medical mysteries) leaves in the middle of the night and doesn’t come back. Convinced he’s looking for her mother, Imogene sets out to track him down, using the knowledge she has gathered from reading his books.
Of course, more questions and mysteries will emerge before this one is solved, and Imogene will find herself tangled up in her family’s history.
The Mystery of Hollow Places book is about so many things that it’s hard to know where to start. Firstly, it is a psychological mystery that takes a look at the effects of depression. But it is also about a teenage girl trying to figure herself out. There’s mentions of feminism and criticisms of slut-shaming. The characters are diverse and Imogene herself is mixed race. And she has a great support network of awesome female characters.
Her best friend, Jessa:
Jessa tips her head onto my shoulder. “Who needs boys, anyway?”
Resting my cheek on the top of her tangled hair, I try to smile. “Definitely not us.”
Her stepmother, Lindi:
“Imogene Mei Scott, you need to realize that you’re a strong young woman who is perfectly capable of having a great time sans male.”
The friendship between Imogene and Jessa makes for some very funny moments that had me laughing out loud. And I also enjoyed reading about Imogene’s crush on Jessa’s brother. Surprisingly, it was not just another excuse to squeeze in some romantic angst, but was more about establishing Imogene as a normal, albeit smart and emotionally mature, teenage girl.
A very interesting book, with some scenes that are so perfectly-written I had to read them again. I genuinely look forward to what the author writes next.