As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going even if it kills her.
*May Contain Spoilers*
Ally Malinenko explores what happens to those left behind when someone goes missing in her novel, This Is Sarah. On May 12th, Sarah Evans went to meet her friend for a party and was never seen again. Some of her things were found: shoes, torn shirt, car. And other things weren't: her phone, her body. She left behind a high school of friends, a sister, her parents, and a boyfriend. Now, without Sarah, the world moves on.
Colin and Claire share the title of main character in this book. Colin is Sarah's boyfriend while Claire is Sarah's younger sister. Both of the characters are easy to connect to because of the situation they're living through. Readers have experienced grief, loss, and anger allowing them to understand the feelings of these two main characters.
Colin is seventeen, loves to run, and is head over heels for Sarah. When she disappears, Colin begins to lose it. He doesn't understand why Sarah would runaway and he believes that she's trying to return. And because of that, he'll never give up hope. He acts a bit unhinged at times: calling Sarah's phone repeatedly, reading her blog over and over, and making lists about her. But everyone becomes unhinged during grief. Those things are ways that Colin help himself keep going. Readers will see the nitty-gritty disillusioned side of grief and guilt with Colin's perspective, and the honesty portrayed will solidify their connection to Colin.
Claire is sixteen, just a year or so younger than her sister Sarah. Claire is a band geek, she works hard and enjoys playing the clarinet. Sarah was Claire's role model. She loved and admired her sister. When Sarah disappears, her family starts to crack under the pressure of finding Sarah. After search parties and hotlines, Claire's mother can only mentally survive with medicine and Claire's father is trying to accept things and move on. Readers will connect with Claire through her loss of a loved one. That bond will only grow stronger as Claire decides to live enough for both herself and her sister. She keeps her head up, she takes it one day at a time, and she succeeds. Even with all of the pain and sadness.
The novel spans over a year, beginning the night of Sarah's disappearance, with a few flashbacks to before, and ending after Colin graduates from high school. The plot follows both Colin and Claire as they struggle to live their lives without Sarah. Though the police are searching for her, Colin thinks they're missing something. He thinks Sarah is still alive. Then after a year of nothing, Sarah's phone suddenly has a voice mail option and when Colin leaves a message for her, the message comes to life. Then there's the letter... But Colin's afraid to tell anyone, what if it isn't real and he has completely lost it? But what if it is and Sarah's trying to get back home? The reality of this novel will certainly enthrall and embrace readers. The writing style is open and honest. Malinenko does an incredible job at bringing readers into the realm of understanding what it's like to go on living after a disappearance.
Rating: 4.5/5 Cups