Missing Arabella by Kathryn Siebel was sent to me by Amazon Vine’s Review Programme in exchange for my honest opinion.
Missing Arabella is a very odd book. In parts it reminded me of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It has children in unfortunate circumstances living in a strange reality that is partly contemporary, partly old fashioned and entirely unexplained by the author. You just plunge straight in and are expected to navigate your way around a world that doesn’t seem to have a need for cars but has hospitals and telephones, and strangely contemporary schools. It’s somewhat unnerving and a bit mysterious and probably works if you’re a fan of that kind of thing and don’t spend the entire book like I did, going: ‘Well why do they do that, but not that?’
Henrietta and Arabella are twins. Arabella is the golden child who fortune favours and who is perfect and beautiful and feted by everyone including her parents. Henrietta is the opposite, except that Arabella loves her, and the twins, we are led to believe by the author are close, even though Arabella treats Henrietta like dirt most of the time. One day, Henrietta blows her stack and cuts Arabella’s hair in revenge for being ignored for most of her childhood. Their parents go absolutely mad and send Henrietta to live with her deranged, witch like aunt. At this point, Arabella realises that Henrietta is wonderful and she cannot live without her, and sets off on a fairytale like adventure to find Henrietta and bring her home.
What I found unspeakably frustrating about this story was the really poor development of the relationship between Henrietta and Arabella. Henrietta is understandable as a character but I found it almost impossible to believe that Arabella could still be close to Henrietta when she basically emotionally abuses her every day of their life, and that she could turn out to be good because she just decides to redeem herself by setting out on a journey to find Henrietta.
The story is exciting enough and I liked the fairy tale tropes and some of the quirkiness of it, but I found the lack of emotional depth and intelligence in the book and the poor character development really frustrating. In the Snicket books, no matter how far fetched things get you believe in the Baudelaire children because they have back story, and deep thoughts and real conversations and their responses to danger and threat are well thought out. Here we get the actions but none of the depth.
It’s appropriate for boy and girl readers, aged 8 to 12.