Nina’s been gone for two years, but that doesn’t stop Ellie from thinking about her. One day she was there, and the next she was gone. Nina, a free-spirited artist, just up and left her home and was never heard from again.
Their mom said to let it be, that Nina was long gone. Amanda, Ellie’s best friend, told her to let it go, too. She couldn’t let her life stop because Nina was never coming back.
But when Ellie discovers a mysterious note in a box at Amanda’s work — one featuring one of Nina’s trademark drawings — she knows she needs to get to the root of what happened to her sister.
When her path leads her to Mothership, a local artist colony of sorts, Ellie meets Sean and tells him her story of loss. It took no time for Sean to propose a road trip to follow the clues and find Nina. You better believe there is some budding romance here, too.
Wherever Nina Lies was a book I found myself wanting to keep reading until it was finished. I thought the mystery was quite predictable, but I thought that Weingarten’s integration of the clues and development of subplots within the greater problem of the whodunit makes this title stand out. I really liked Ellie as a character, and I thought she was developed perfectly as a high school girl. She was no fancy sleuth and her reason for seeking her sister was compelling enough to drive the pace of the story forward. Though there are a lot of elements, they never bogged down the pace.
This is far from the perfect book, however. I found that the secondary characters — particularly the mother and Amanda — to be flat and empty. The believability of Ellie being able to take off for a few days on a road trip without her mother ever questioning was ludicrous, even if it was explained early on as normal that Ellie spent so much time away from home at Amanda’s. Given the disappearance of one daughter, it just didn’t work for me. Likewise, I felt that both characters were too easy to dismiss Ellie’s feelings about Nina’s disappearance; while we find that mom comes around in the end, it seems the relationship between Ellie and Amanda is never reconciled. For being described as inseparable for the bulk of the novel, this just didn’t jive.
As a non-mystery reader, I found Wherever Nina Lies to be a fun read. I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it and because there was enough else going on plot wise, I could dig into the romance (though I won’t blow it for those who haven’t read it, this ends up not being perfect either), the road trip, the quest for life and excitement, and the dropping of clues throughout in the form of drawings. This will be an appealing book to mystery and non-mystery readers alike, and it makes for a good readalike to Ally Carter’s “Gallagher Girls” series for an older audience. Because it’s a little more violent and includes harsh language as well as situations with drugs and alcohol, it’s not a clean read, so I’d hold this one off for older readers.
Quite honestly, what appealed to me about this book was that it felt like the sorts of books I read as a teen; it has “classic” teen read appeal to it. It doesn’t try to be an issue book nor does it try to impart a message or lesson. It’s a story for story’s sake. I could see this on the big screen, too, for that reason and because it incorporates so much into it plot-wise to keep it from being pigeonholed as one thing or another.
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