Summary: Every Missing Piece
In Every Missing Piece, Maddy Gaines is an anxious girl still coping with the grief of her father’s death — and also adjusting to her new stepfather. Home conditions are good: her mother is patient and reassuring, and she and her stepdad go on regular outings together by themselves. One day, Maddy sees on the news that a boy named Billy Holcomb has gone missing. Then several weeks after, she runs into another boy who looks a lot like Billy, except his hair is different and he’s taller than Billy was, and oh — his name is Eric.
Maddy would love to report her hunch to the sheriff, but she’s already reported so many false crimes in the past that she’s practically known as the girl who cried wolf. So she decides to watch and wait. While she’s waiting, she and Eric become friends. She’s also having some friend issues with her best friend, Cress, and finding it hard to love her dad and accept her stepdad, whom she’s really starting to care about as well. Will Maddy get to the bottom of the Eric/Billy situation? And will she find a way to open her heart despite her worries?
I loved this story. It’s somehow quiet and action packed at the same time — one of those books where you find yourself flipping the pages and unable to stop thinking about it when you’re not reading. I also really liked Maddy. Like her, I can be really anxious and see danger everywhere, so I appreciated the practical ways her mother worked to help Maddy manage her anxiety.
I also loved Maddy’s relationship with Stan. Maddy keeps texting her dad’s number (no one replies) just to share what’s going on in her life, and it’s so sweet to see her maintain that bond in her own way. But she also wants to let Stan in, even though he’s so different from her dad. Conklin does a wonderful job highlighting one of the challenges that come with blending a family or adjusting to a new stepparent.
Finally, there’s a mystery at the heart of this story — a really good one at that. I loved seeing how serious themes like domestic abuse, kidnapping, and substance abuse work together in this story.
Overall: Every Missing Piece
Every Missing Piece is a sensitive, moving, and heartwarming middle grade book about managing anxiety and adjusting to a new step-parent. With an anxious, clever protagonist dealing with grief and friendship ups and downs, this relatable story will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to recover from difficult circumstances. This book manages to deal with tough themes like substance abuse and domestic abuse in a balanced age-appropriate way, while keeping readers engaged with a low stakes mystery. I highly recommend this to fans of mystery stories with plenty of heart.