The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 26, 2016
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 3.48 (as of 2019-01-20)
cw: portrayals and discussion of bipolar disorder and severe depression
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 Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by 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.
…with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.
This was my second Rebecca Podos book (my first being her 2017 release Like Water) and it was just as great as I had hoped it would be. I was honestly shocked when I got to the end and realized that this was her debut novel. This was one of those books that sucked me right in and filled me with emotion. Following Imogene on her journey felt both meaningful and real. It was easy to see where her thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) came from. The story follows Imogene as she attempts to find her long-lost mother and, in turn, her newly missing father. While she has little in the way of clues, between her wits and the assistance of her best friend Jessa she starts out on a path that will impact her life forever.
I thought Imogene was a sympathetic, believable main character and enjoyed being inside her head. While her constant Sherlock references wore on me a bit, I understood the point being made. Her relationship with Jessa was appropriately complicated, I liked the reference to symbiosis as I think we all have friendships that rely on shared exchanges like these. There were some romantic undertones between Imogene and Jessa’s brother, Chad, but I think this was well-balanced and certainly wasn’t anything close to the main focus of the story.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of Imogene’s non-traditional family structure. She spent most of her life living alone with her father, who struggled with bouts of severe depression where his daughter had to fend largely for herself. Her mother left before she could remember and exists only in the peripheries of scattered photographs. Lindy, her stepmother, is a family therapist and recent addition to the family. To be honest, I never grew to like Lindy very much. While I could absolutely see where she was coming from and didn’t actively disliked her, I just didn’t think I was given enough to really develop much in the way of positive feelings toward her — but that could definitely have just been me.
But if there’s one thing Dad’s bad times have taught me, it’s this: I never, ever want to have something I can’t survive without.
The only downside was that I didn’t love the end. There was a climax that I enjoyed, but after that I felt like I was just skimming the last bit to finish out the book. It was sort of like in movies where they have the on-screen text to explain what happened to each of the characters in the aftermath of the main plot. I personally didn’t feel that it added much, although I’m not sure what I would have suggested as an alternative.
Overall, though, this was an excellent read that I would highly recommend to lovers of contemporary YA, as well as those who like a bit of mystery in their books. I’m really excited to see what Rebecca Podos comes out with next, as she’s proven herself to be quite a strong writer! I think this is one that I’ll definitely be thinking back to in the future.