Missing You by Meg Cabot
If you haven’t read the previous books, I highly recommend doing so before reading or listening to Missing You. It’s not necessary—I think Cabot does a great job integrating the essential information for both newbies and fans of the series—but it’s the little things, the details, that readers of the entire series will pick up on and make the story richer. Especially when it comes to Jess’s conversations with Mike, the younger of her two older brothers.
For those unfamiliar with the series, here’s what you need to know: walking home from school one day, Jessica Mastriani was hit by lightning. At first, she thought she came out of it relatively unscathed, until she woke up the next morning and realized she knew the location of a missing child. Still a bit disbelieving, she convinces Rob Wilkins, the hottie from detention, to give her a ride on his motorcycle to the place she thinks the missing kid can be found. And he’s exactly where she knew he would be.
If Jess had her way, she and Rob would totally be a couple. But Rob is two years older than her, on probation for something he refuses to tell Jess about, plus Jess’s mother, and her best friend, Ruth, look down on Rob because of his socioeconomic background. Rob, you see, is a Grit.
There are two types of people who attend Ernest Pyle High School: the kids who come from the rural parts of the county, or the “Grits,” and the people who live in town, or the “Townies.” The Grits and Townies do not mix. Period. The Townies think they are better than the Grits because they have more money, since most of the kids who live in town have doctors or lawyers or teachers for parents. The Grits think they are better than the Townies because they know how to do stuff the Townies don’t know how to do, like fix up old motorcycles and birth calves and stuff. The Grits’ parents are all factory workers or farmers. (When Lightning Strikes [1-800 book one], p. 15)
And if there’s one thing that really struck me while listening to the Missing You audiobook, that didn’t really catch my attention as I read the book, it was the issue of class.
Anyway, over the course of four books, Jess finds some missing kids, gets some makeout time with Rob, and finally, at the end of book four, introduces Rob to her parents as her boyfriend. Okay, a lot more happens, but that’s the basics of what you need to know going into this book.
Which is why I was totally shocked when Meg Cabot first posted the description of Missing You on her blog. Actually, I think freaked out is the more accurate term. (“What?! Rob Wilkins, her ex!!!! But Jess totally introduced him as her boyfriend at the end of Sanctuary. Wait, this is Meg Cabot, so they’ve got to be together at the end at the end of the book. Right? Right? [stunned pause] But she said he was her boyfriend, why is he her ex? But they’re gonna end up back together, right?”) In any case, Missing You takes place about about a two and a half years after the events of Sanctuary and so much has changed for both Jess and Rob since we last saw them. Jess has finished her first year at Julliard and is living in New York City with Ruth, who’s attending Columbia. Then Rob shows up. Rob, who is now Jess’s ex-boyfriend. Because Jess thinks he cheated on her while she was in Afghanistan.
Previously, Jess had been finding missing kids independently, refusing to help the FBI. Then came 9/11 (though it’s never explicitly stated), and Jess knows that the country needed her help finding terrorists in Afghanistan. At first, she tried to do it from home, then actually from Afghanistan. And while she did find a lot of bad guys, she also came back home with PTSD and nightmares, unable to sleep and therefore unable to find anyone. Until Rob shows her a picture of his missing half-sister.
When I first started listening to this audiobook, it took a while before I could let myself just listen to the story instead of criticizing the narration. This was not an audiobook, or narrator, that had me instantly hooked. At first, I didn’t care for Johanna Parker’s narration. It sounded a forced and disinterested, which actually fits with what’s going on, since Jess is still traumatized and was never Miss Perky to begin with, but made it rather hard to get into. But as the story goes on, Parker and Jess become more at ease and the reading improves. She does a decent job with the male characters, too.
If you’re a fan of the 1-800 series, you may want to check out the sample of the Missing You audiobook. This isn’t the greatest audiobook, but it’s not the worst either. However, it’s nowhere near as good as The Princess Diaries, Princess in the Spotlight, or Princess in Love, all of which I would recommend ahead of this one, because I still think Anne Hathaway is the best narrator of Meg Cabot books.