The Disappearance – Gillian Chan

I love this book! Ever since reading as many of Torey L. Hayden’s books as I could get my hands on just after finishing my psychology degree, I’ve had a great interest in elective mutism so I had to read The Disappearance. While elective mutism was one aspect, as it unfolded there was a twist that turned this story into so much more. I guess it doesn’t hurt that I have a soft spot for kids who have been through foster care and are stuck in a system that doesn’t always work the way it’s intended to.

Mike McCallum, otherwise known as Mutt, arrives at a group home called Medlar House after a series of unsuccessful foster care placements. Mutt is physically and emotionally scarred from the murder of his little brother, Jon. He uses his physical size and his disfigured face to play the role of thug, pushing away anyone who tries to get too close to him. He’s a smart kid who adored and looked out for his little brother, and blames himself for not being able to prevent Jon’s murder.

Mutt has a heart of gold buried underneath his bravado but don’t tell him that or he may beat you up. The fact that Mutt is manipulative when he wants or feels he needs to be and that he takes pleasure in messing with people scored him points with me as these characteristics gave depth to him that would’ve been lacking if he’d been all good or all bad.

Among the kids who live at Medlar House are Adam the shadow, Paddy the bully, Matt who acts like Paddy’s minion and silent Jacob Mueller. While there are many social workers at Medlar House the house parents, if you will, are Chaz and Lucy (Luce). Luce spends more time with the younger kids and Chaz cares for the older ones. I adored Chaz. He was gullible and eternally optimistic, doing whatever he could to reach out to the seemingly unreachable.

As Mutt settles in to the group home, he throws his weight around enough to ensure the other kids know he’s not a pushover. Silent Jacob, who ends up being his roommate, intrigues Mutt. There’s more to him than meets the eye. In the middle of the night Mutt hears Jacob say something about Mutt’s life before Medlar that he couldn’t possibly have known. Mutt is determined to find out what’s really behind Jacob’s strange behaviour and hopefully find some answers for himself at the same time.

This book grabbed me during the prologue, which tells us the end of the story before we go back to the beginning to find out how we got there. I enjoyed the paranormal aspects and felt they added an interesting layer to the story. While I did find the way it all panned out predictable and I worked things out before Mutt did, he was at a disadvantage because he was trying not to look too smart and fly as much as possible under the radar whereas I didn’t have those setbacks as the reader. The lack of surprises didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the book.

The underlying mystery throughout the book and the gradual revelation of the histories of Mutt, Jacob and Adam were rewarding and I found the writing style to flow well. It was a quick and easy read with a few words scattered here and there that had me consulting my dictionary. I would have liked to have been given more information from Jacob about the lost ones.

Main issue with this book: The blurb. I feel that it gives too much away that would be better off being uncovered by the reader as they make their way through the book.

Tissues used: 1, but they weren’t sad tears.

What I craved while reading: Chocolate donuts and hot chocolate. Yummy!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Annick Press Ltd. for the opportunity to read this book. While this book is marketed to young adults, I’d recommend it to adults as well.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This novel centers on the unlikely friendship between two boys, Jacob Mueller and Mike McCallum. Jacob seems to be from a different world. After mystifying experts and doctors, who finally decide that he is an elective mute, Jacob ends up in a juvenile group home, isolated and withdrawn, the butt of teasing by the other kids. Mike exists in his own private hell. Scarred physically and emotionally after the murder of his younger brother, his one aim is to survive the system until he is legally old enough to get out. He uses his horrific appearance, imposing size, sharp intelligence, and a calculated brutality to keep everyone at bay–until he encounters Jacob. Almost despite himself, Mike is fascinated by Jacob, particularly the way in which he seems able to shut out the world around him. This fascination deepens and becomes tinged by a mixture of awe and horror when Jacob starts to talk, and appears to have knowledge of Mike’s past, and in particular of his dead brother. Mike takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle that is Jacob Mueller, and when he comes to what seems to him to be the impossible conclusion that Jacob is from another time, he makes it his mission to return him home. In order to do so, Mike has to make hard choices: choices which could offer the chance of redemption, but only at great cost. 

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