Review: 99 Red Balloons – Elisabeth Carpenter

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared… – via Goodreads

I don’t know. This book. I really thought it was going to be so more than it ultimately was, and so many people raved about it. I should have known from early on it wasn’t going to be my jam. I just felt it in my bones, and yet I foolishly soldiered on. The completist in me. Pfffffff.

Right off the bat, the characters. Oh. My. Gosh. I resented them all. The only one that was nice was Jim, the only one I didn’t mind reading about. It also didn’t help at all that none of the characters ever had their own voice. Which is frustrating as hell because every chapter is from someone else’s perspective, and the only person you can distinctly pick out from the pages is Maggie. This was really maddening. Like really, really frustrating. Not liking any of the characters didn’t help at all, because I couldn’t give a damn about their situation, the present, the past, nothing, and this book is all about that.

I was also not a fan of the writing – it was really stinted and didn’t flow nicely. The story gets told, but it comes across as erratic, and the plot twist that comes along later is not delivered super smoothly at all, it is something you sort of wonder about, especially with the plot device that the author is deliberately trying to shove down your throat, so insistently that eventually you are wondering if she would be so bold as to be so honest.

I did not appreciate the chapter division – like the perspective from a multitude of characters. This style can work for some books, but it didn’t really work here, and I think that is primarily because the characters all ran into each other, there were no major differences between them, and it was hard to keep track of who was who as they all sounded the same. Also, all the characters being equally messed up, selfish and overall meh contributed toward this. 99 Red Balloons also felt like it was going around and around in circles, not really going anywhere – it felt like an awfully long read. I feel it could have been a lot shorter than it ultimately was.

Anyway, I don’t think I need to state the obvious that I wasn’t bowled over by this. Seems a lot of people liked it, but it just didn’t work for me. Not the worst book I read this year, but it was really generic for me at the end of the day. I would say skip, but that is just me.

3 thoughts on “Review: 99 Red Balloons – Elisabeth Carpenter

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