The Forgotten Girl

Fantasy author Rio Youers’s latest, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL, combines elements of the supernatural with mystery in a surprisingly satisfying blend that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The protagonist, Harvey Anderson, enjoys a peaceful life as a street performer in New Jersey. Then one day Harvey is abducted and brutally beaten by a group of thugs. The thugs and their leader, known only as “the spider” demand Harvey tell them the whereabouts of Harvey’s girlfriend, Sally Starling.

The problem is Harvey has no recollection of every knowing a girl by that name. That’s when the spider tells Harvey that Sally has the unique ability to selectively erase a person’s memories; a talent she obviously used on Harvey. But the spider won’t quite until he finds Sally. So Harvey sets out to find Sally himself and regain the time they shared together, while learning what she took from the spider. But the spider’s thugs are never too far behind.

The story is told through Harvey’s first-person narration, and Youers’s prose is mostly direct and unadorned. Still Youers manages to effectively convey both the characters and cross-country locations as Harvey searches for Sally. The most memorable moments are when Harvey discovers that even the deepest recesses of his mind are not safe from invasion.

Youers risks losing the thread of his story when recalling the early years of Sally’s life. This goes on for several chapters, but the recollection is so fascinating and intensely personal that we willingly suspend our interest in the main plot to learn more about Sally. Along the way we also discover why the spider is so determined to find Sally.

Then there is the mystery of some unsolved murders that suddenly become relevant as law enforcement officers follow Harvey’s search for Sally. This secondary element, unfortunately, is not as seamlessly woven into the plot and distracts rather than enhances the main story.

The theme is obviously memories and the role they play in shaping our lives. But Youers wisely avoids overstating this theme and actually recasts it in Harvey’s relationships with the other players of the story – most notably with Harvey’s father, a Viet Nam veteran who quietly suffers paranoid delusions as a result of his war experience.

Love, and how it mixes with and influences memories, is a sub-theme also running through the story; especially in the moments when Harvey or Sally recall the times and love they shared.

With its emphasis on easily relatable themes and just enough supernatural elements to appeal to fans while not alienating non-genre readers, THE FORGOTTEN GIRL may well be the break-thorough novel that brings Youers to the attention of a wider audience. —Alan Cranis

Get it at Amazon.

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