Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books
Date of publication: March 7th, 2023
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Fiction, LGBTQIA, Crime, Queer, Murder Mystery
Trigger warning: Adult/Minor relationships, sexual assault, murder, gun violence, violence, murder, cursing, homophobia, rape
In a gripping novel perfect for fans of Sadie and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, two best friends start a true crime podcast—only to realize they may have helped a killer in the process.
In August of 1999, dazzlingly popular cheerleader Clarissa Campbell disappears from a party in the woods outside the rural town of Oreville, Washington and is never seen again. The police question her friends, teachers, and the adults who knew her—who all have something to hide. And thanks to Clarissa’s beauty, the mystery captures the attention of the nation. But with no leads and no body, the case soon grows cold. Despite the efforts of internet sleuths and true-crime aficionados, Clarissa is never found—dead or alive.
Over twenty years later, Oreville high-school juniors and best friends Blair and Cameron start a true crime podcast, determined to unravel the story of what—or who—happened to this rural urban legend. In the process they uncover a nest of dirty small-town secrets, the sordid truth of Clarissa’s relationship with her charismatic boyfriend, and a high school art teacher turned small-town figurehead who had a very good reason for wanting Clarissa dead. Such a good reason, in fact, that they might have to make him the highlight of their next episode…
But does an ugly history with a missing girl make him guilty of murder? Or are two teenage girls about to destroy the life of an innocent man—and help the true killer walk free?
Imagine this: A fairy-tale summer, blue and wild. Skinny-dipping in the Salish Sea with a trail of phosphorescence in your wake, sunburnt sholders, salt-sticky hair drying in the twilight as the stars come out.Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
The disappearance of Clarissa Campbell shook the town of Oreville, Washington to its core. Her disappearance also intrigued the nation. A beautiful cheerleader with her life ahead of her disappears after a bonfire captivates the nation. Twenty years later, there are conspiracy theories and finger-pointing, but the case has gone cold. That is when Blair and Cameron (or Cami) come in. As part of a project for their journalism class, they decide to start a true crime podcast exploring her disappearance. As they start digging, they discover more about the case than what was reported. And what they ultimately uncover might kill them.
When I read the blurb for Missing Clarissa, I wasn’t impressed with it. I should have known not to judge the book by the blurb (or the cover if I am going to go there). This book was a great read. It kept me up late reading it. I was concerned about Cami and Blair (and their investigation), and I wanted to know what happened to Clarissa.
Usually, I would write the trigger warning at the end of the review, but I felt that these trigger warnings might be triggering more people. The trigger warnings are:
- Adult/minor sexual relationships (off page-Clarissa plus other girls with her art teacher).
- Sexual assault (off-page).
- Rape (off-page).
- Gun violence (Cami and Blair).
- Homophobia (off page, told by Clarissa’s boyfriend about what he did to a gay classmate).
If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
What I liked the most about this book was how real it felt. The girls weren’t natural-born sleuths; they bumbled through the investigation with almost no tact (well, Cami did, Blair tried). They made enormous (and sometimes nearly catastrophic) mistakes. It made the book so much more enjoyable to read.
The main characters, Cami and Blair, were as opposite as they could get. Cami was brilliant, had no filter or tact, and tended to bulldoze her way through life. On the other hand, Blair was brilliant in her way, was cautious when approaching things, and moved along her lifepath cautiously. Their dynamic was perfect for the book. Together and separately, they clarified their investigation that made the book for me. Brilliant Cami made that final connection, and Blair figured out where Cami had gone and who she was with when Cami went missing.
I loved that the author made podcasts the book’s central focus (along with Clarissa’s disappearance). Again, Cami and Blair were not tech geniuses who knew how to set up their podcast. It was the opposite. Their podcast sounded like it was recorded in the bathroom, and they had zero editing skills. But even with that, they still got a decent following. I liked that the author included excerpts from the podcast at the end of the chapters. It tied everything together for me.
The main storyline of Missing Clarissa is the story of Clarissa’s disappearance. What I liked most was that it wasn’t cut and dry. It also showed that the investigation into her disappearance was bungled. I enjoyed watching it unravel as the girls tracked down witnesses, friends, and family. Each little bit of information gleaned was exciting. Of course, it did take a dark turn when the girls uncovered things about the sheriff, the former art teacher (who wasn’t as loved as he thought he was), and how that tied into the investigation. I wasn’t surprised at what was revealed (with the sheriff). To mess up an investigation that badly, there had to be outside forces in play. But I was surprised by what was revealed when they looked into the art teacher. I shouldn’t have been, considering the clues dropped and the sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality at schools in the 90s. What I was surprised about was the outcome of the investigation. I did not expect it to end as it did or the multiple investigations it spawned.
Several secondary storylines revolved around Blair, Cami, and their various relationships. I loved the one between Cami and her crush/soon-to-be girlfriend. Her coming out to her mom was hilarious. I was laughing my butt off that entire scene. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend annoyed me. He was a jerk the whole book, and that scene towards the end gave me such satisfaction.
The end of Missing Clarissa was impressive. The twist on Clarissa’s missing person case and its fallout were well written. I did not see any of it coming. Several big revelations made me go, “No way.” It wasn’t a happy ending per se, but there was closure for many people and vindication for a man wrongly accused.
I would recommend Missing Clarissa to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Ripley Jones for allowing me to read and review Missing Clarissa. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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