{review} THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by April Henry

Author: April Henry
Release Date: Out now (March 13, 2011)
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co./Macmillan
Received: Review copy courtesy of Macmillan/NetGalley


Gabie drives a Mini Cooper. She also works part time as a delivery girl at Pete’s Pizza. One night, Kayla—another delivery girl—goes missing. To her horror, Gabie learns that the supposed kidnapper had asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper was working that night. Gabie can’t move beyond the fact that Kayla’s fate was really meant for her, and she becomes obsessed with finding Kayla. She teams up with Drew, who also works at Pete’s. Together, they set out to prove that Kayla isn’t dead—and to find her before she is.

It's rare to find a good, suspenseful novel in the YA section in the vein of THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by April Henry.  Even better, while this is technically a mystery, it also isn't, because the novel is told in multiple points of view.  There are times when you see behind the eyes of the man who lured Kayla out, so you always know who he is.  It's more of a thriller, because he's hidden his tracks well and no one suspects him.  The main narrators, Gabie and Drew, are co-workers at Pete's Pizza, and the man on the phone the night pizza delivery girl Kayla went missing asked for Gabie, not Kayla.  Everyone at work is shaken up, and no females are allowed to make deliveries anymore.  The police think the man asked for Gabie to hide the fact he really wanted Kayla, but Gabie and Drew don't believe that.  They form a close bond over the experience and work together to keep hope alive.  This is a REALLY hard book to talk about in terms of summary, so I won't, but if you want something to keep you reading all night, this is definitely a novel worth picking up.

When I first heard about THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, I noticed that it shared a theme of car kidnapping with Henry's previous novel, GIRL STOLEN.  This is Henry's thirteenth novel, so I'm sure her topics are very diverse, but I've only read the two teen novels she's put out with Henry Holt/Macmillan.  The two books are actually quite different from one another, though.  One of the things that intrigued me the most about GIRL STOLEN was the fact that the main character was blind and completely vulnerable to the world.  As I read THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, I was surprised to see another hard underlying thread of imperfection.  Drew's mother is a tweaker who has developed a hoarding disorder.  She compulsively hoards items in storage containers, and has taken to stealing such items from other people.  The way Drew views her reminds me a bit of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C. J. Omololu, a book I read and enjoyed last year.

I also thought Henry's character development was much stronger in THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED, perhaps because we saw things from the eyes of both Gabie and Drew.  The novel's ending is also much more fleshed out.  With GIRL STOLEN, I wanted just a little bit more.  It felt slightly incomplete.  While this feeling lingers slightly in Henry's latest offering, it's in a way that leaves things to our own imaginations and is satisfactory.  As you'll see if you read my design analysis below, I think the attention to small detail such as 911 transcripts, bloody notes, and more enhanced the reading experience and made the situation feel much more real and immediate.  This was an overall well-put-together novel that makes for a fast, breathless read.


I have to give kudos to designers Rich Deas (who designed GIRL STOLEN as well as several other Macmillan titles and was
interviewed on A Backwards Story in January.) and April Ward.  While the cover itself is dark and mysterious in all the right ways, it's the interior design I'm drooling over.

But first, the front cover!  I like the way the model's shadow falls into the book's title.  This is actually mimicked in the design's interior with both the title page and every chapter heading, seen here:

The image is faint and looks better in person, but you can see the shadow stretching beneath the words, right?

It's funny; I read the entire book, and while I SAW the formatting, I didn't realize it was a shadow until I looked at it again in the final copy. (Though that COULD be because my nook messed up the formatting and the chapter went vertically instead of horizontally as I read...which I'd actually been impressed with, lol!) 

Now that I see it, I totally see how the chapter headings are mirroring the cover!

I also like the use of color and the way they all work together, even the bright red and yellow writing on top of the darkness of the image itself.  And the way the girl is in silhouette, with a car's headlights coming up behind her... The tone is perfect for a mystery novel!

There was a lot of attention paid to detail inside the novel as well.  

From images of evidence such as:

to transcripts of 911 calls and tv interviews such as:

in addition to fun things such as articles that appear after a national tragedy:

There's a lot to look at while reading!  

To me, this doesn't hinder the reading experience at all.  Rather, it enhances it and makes it feel more realistic.  It seems to mirror the writing as well.  

At one point, Gabie googles dead bodies and finds an article that was both disturbing and intriguing.  My nook didn't save my bookmark so I can't quote it, but basically, it was about a body found in a new suitcase that still had a barcode inside it.  The barcode was able to be traced as a Walmart item and after checking security footage from the night of the girl's disappearance, the man buying the suitcase was arrested and found guilty of murder.  I thought the way the evidence was discovered to be beyond cool and wondered if Henry was pulling from a real-life situation.

These are the little things that made THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED feel "real" to me rather than fictional.

And can I just say...completely, 100% off-topic...I LOVE that this:
is the book's dedication, that April Henry dedicated the book to L.K. Madigan.  Her early death last year was completely devastating.  I was so happy to see her memorialized like this, though I never knew her the way April Henry did!


  1. This has been on my TBR list for a while, but your review has totally catapulted it to the top. Thanks for such an awesome review!


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