Missing by Amy Kulp


Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Trigger Warning: Kidnapping, Grooming, Racism, Abuse, Fat Shaming, Low Self Esteem, Human Trafficking, Torture, Blood, Drugging

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of hit YA thrillers like Amanda Panitch’s Never Missing, Never Found and Natasha Preston’s The Cellar, Amy Kulp’s Missing is a visceral, dark, and suspenseful thriller that dives into the life of a teenage girl who is betrayed and forced into the horrifying underground world of human trafficking.

Everything in Emily’s life becomes far from typical when she is betrayed, kidnapped, and thrown into every girl’s worst nightmare. Now, she is a captive to the gruesome and savage whims of an underground human trafficking ring – one that prides itself in breaking women down to husks of their former selves through any means necessary.

Emily tries her hardest to put up a good fight, but her captors are sickeningly creative in their methods of subduing her. Before she knows it, they try to brainwash her into believing her name is “Y,” and they are more than happy to leverage physical and psychological torture to strip her of her identity and fracture her mind beyond repair.

Is there any hope for escape, or will Emily become a pawn in her kidnappers’ plot to terrorize more innocent victims?

Missingis not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a raw and gritty YA thriller that looks into the world of human trafficking and abuse, then click “Add to Cart” today!

First Line:

I stopped breathing when I saw the new kid walk into my class. I noticed everyone else stopped what they were doing and stared too.

Missing by Amy Kulp

Emily is your typical girl next door who is betrayed by people she thought she trusted. Kidnapped and then tortured by a human trafficking ring bent on breaking her, Emily vows never to forget who she is and where she came from. But can Emily hold onto her sense of self? Or will she be broken down and then built back up into a monster who works for the ring?

When I first read the blurb for Missing, I knew what I was getting into, reading-wise. But, for some reason, I thought it would be a more dumbed-down version of a human trafficking story. Heads up, it is not. This book is a brutal look into how a human trafficking ring operates and what the victims go through while they are being broken. It is raw, and it is ugly.

What scared me the most about this book was that the author had teenagers befriend (and, in one case, date) Emily to kidnap her. It is scary, but I can see this happening. Several adults in this book who Emily was familiar with held positions where kids would trust them. Again, it was something that I could see happening. But at the same time, the author gave this book a sort of a fever dreamish type of reality. The teenagers that helped with Emily’s kidnapping she grew up with. So either they were kidnapped and trafficked with the sole purpose of luring girls, or Emily imagined it. I couldn’t make up my mind while reading.

There are trigger warnings in Missing. Oh boy, there are trigger warnings. They are

  1. Kidnapping: Emily is kidnapped, in broad daylight, by a human trafficking ring. Several other children and adults are in the van(s) with her.
  2. Grooming: Emily is groomed by Miguel during the first few chapters, with Chad doing additional grooming when Miguel isn’t there.
  3. Racism: Off page, but Emily’s father was racist. She commented that he wouldn’t like Miguel because he was Hispanic.
  4. Abuse: Emily is horrifically abused while being broken down. She is abused physically, mentally, psychologically, and verbally. Thankfully, she wasn’t sexually because her virginity was viewed as an asset.
  5. Fat Shaming: Chad comments about Emily’s weight as part of her grooming.
  6. Low Self-Esteem: Emily suffers from very low self-esteem at the beginning of the book.
  7. Human Trafficking: For 80% of the book, Emily is imprisoned by a human trafficking ring. There are other children and adults in the processing center (for lack of a better term) with her.
  8. Torture: As part of the ring trying to break Emily, they torture her, and the more she resists, the more they torture her.
  9. Blood: A lot of blood is shown on page after Emily is kidnapped. Once she proves difficult, the kidnappers feel they have no choice but to beat her until she bleeds.
  10. Drugging: Emily is drugged constantly throughout the book. I believe that she is continuously roofied.

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

The characters in Missing were not made to be liked. Except for Emily, they were shown as vile human beings they were. I got sick when I realized what was happening (it was when Miguel and Emily were hiding in her house). As for Emily, I was rooting for her not to forget herself (and become “Y”) and for her to escape. I wanted to see that slightly awkward, sweet girl shown at the book’s beginning again.

The main storyline centered on Emily, her kidnapping by the ring, and the crew trying to break her. The storyline was well written and kept me, unwillingly at times, in its grip. I was rooting for Emily to escape, beat the odds, and return to her family.

While this book is technically a YA thriller, I would be hesitant to let anyone under 16 read it. Heck, my hesitation extends to 18. While this book needs to be read, there should be discussions about human trafficking and what those people go through after each chapter. I had a similar conversation with my mother when I read Don’t Ask Alice as a teenager.

The end of Missing broke my heart. It was not a happy ending for any of the characters. And that’s all I am going to say about it. Reading the book to understand what I mean would be best.

I would recommend Missing to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to Amy Kulp and Novel Cause for allowing me to read and review Missing. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by Amy Kulp:

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