Missing Clarissa

Missing Clarissa
Age Range
Release Date
March 07, 2023
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Perfect for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Ripley Jones's Missing Clarissa is a gripping novel about two friends who start a true crime podcast—with dangerous consequences.

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?

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intriguing YA mystery/suspense
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MISSING CLARISSA is an intriguing story of missing girls and the ways that the world changes them. Cam and Blair are high school juniors taking a journalism class at their high school. For their big project, Cam has a big idea - they will make a podcast about the famous case in their town of the cheerleader who went missing 20 years before. Since it is a small town where people don't really leave, they will have plenty of people to interview and elements to investigate.

As they embark on the podcast, they begin to reopen the cold case - something it appears others would do anything to prevent. Their interviews with people who were there the night she disappeared and information they gather about her life begin to make Clarissa more than just the folktale she was starting to seem - she was a real person, imperfect and unique, whose disappearance became a media circus and a police investigation flop. As they continue their podcast, they will unearth secrets that may have been better staying buried.

What I loved: This was a really engaging premise from the start, with the story focused on Cam, Blair, and their podcast. The story covered both Cam and Blair's lives and their investigation, which lands them in some hot water. Cam and Blair were compelling characters. They have been best friends for a long time, and they are each dealing with their own relationship drama. Cam is not out yet, but she has a crush on a girl at school, who seems like she might like her too. Blair has been dating a jock for a couple years, and she cannot really understand why he chose her. However, his attitude and moodiness makes things a bit tough on her - especially since he really does not like Cam.

While the story focuses on the case of Clarissa, their investigations make them aware of problems with police and their prejudices as well as their humanity that allows them to be influenced, missing girls that are not white cheerleaders and so are generally ignored, as well as the survivors of violence and assault whose stories are buried just as easily. These themes were really thought-provoking and could open discussions to other, similar stories and books, and would make this one work well for a book club or discussion group.

Clarissa's case itself was interesting. There were a lot of people in town who cared about her, and the only suspect in her disappearance was her boyfriend, Brad. As her missing status garnered a lot of media attention, there were online sleuths looking into it as well - though their biggest suspect was sasquatch. Through the interviews and investigations they do, the girls uncover information about who Clarissa really was as well as about the people in her life - the ones the police investigated but also those they didn't and why. The results are much more explosive than just what happened to Clarissa (which also gets closure).

Final verdict: MISSING CLARISSA is an intriguing YA suspense/mystery with thought-provoking themes that takes the reader for an unexpected ride. Recommend for fans of SADIE, THE BLACK QUEEN, and A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER.
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