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All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
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Before She Was Found: 12/18/19

Before She Was Found

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf is a mystery set in a small town where three girls become obsessed with a local urban legend to disastrous results. Cora, Violet, and Jordyn were supposed to be having a sleepover but sometime after midnight Cora is found violently attacked and disfigured at the rail yard with Violet cowering nearby. Jordyn is nowhere to be found.

The mystery told through multiple points of view focuses on three main suspects, Violet, Jordyn, and the teacher who assigned the urban legend project. The set up and the chatroom evidence of a manifestation of Joseph, the immortal killer and taker of girls, give this novel a Twin Peaks vibe.

Except, none of the girls died and while Cora's injuries are horrible, none of them are life threatening. And that fact lessens the stakes. Before She Was Found is more like Twin Peaks Lite.

As the investigation continues and the adults in these girls' lives go out of their way to protect themselves and their families, I'm reminded of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. But again, there's no immediate sense of danger so the effect isn't as strong as it could or should be.

The mystery, though, is framed within the road narrative spectrum, with the arrival of Violet, her mother and brother, to this close knit town as the inciting incident. These tropes reframe an otherwise anemic mystery as a rural horror.

From the spectrum point of view, the protagonists cease being the the three girls, and is refocused on siblings as travelers (CC): Violet and her brother, and Cora and her sister. Understanding the interplay of sibling rivalries helps to unravel the truth.

As the title implies with the world "Before", the destination is uhoria (CC). Namely it's a desire to reset the town to before Violet and her family arrived, to a time before she reset the dynamics at school.

The route taken is the railroad (00). It's even part of the cover art. The rail yard is the point of the attack. It's the focus of everything. It's also the answer to everything.

On the road narrative spectrum, Before She Was Found is about siblings traveling to uhoria via the railroad.

Three stars

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