With Do Not Become Alarmed, Maile Meloy has succeeded in writing a suspenseful, fast-paced novel that also contains well-rounded characters. Not an easy feat! The story opens with Liv and Nora taking their husbands and children (ages six to eleven) on a holiday cruise. Right from the beginning, I know the characters are going on a journey and I am going with them. At first the characters are lulled into the ease of the ship’s activities and buffet, but during an offshore excursion, all of the children go missing. “One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.” It happens so fast it feels the ground has shifted beneath our feet (mirrored by an earthquake later in the story) and the unpredictable shifts between POV characters adds to that feeling. Before long, nearly every character, especially the parents of the missing children, are anxious and restless and so are the readers. One obstacle after another keeps the parents and authorities from finding the children. The obstacles don’t feel forced. Each moment is plausible as a new complication, which makes the dilemma surprising but inevitable.
The point of view shifts between 14 (at best count) characters, four of which are the missing children. Because of this story construction, I always know what is happening with the children, which is somewhat of a relief to be sure, but not having these perspectives would have increased the suspense. The positive angle here is that I was with the children as the events are unfolding for them, and the author didn’t have to use lengthy sections of backstory to explain what happens to them.
Four hearts for this one. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
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