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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Anabelle Lost is a young adult urban fantasy novel written by Melissa Volker. Anabelle’s very identity was abruptly challenged and shattered as she woke up one morning. She was to have gone to her part-time job at the local bookstore, where she was working to earn enough money for a trip to Peru with a group of fellow home-schoolers. The night before had been perfect: it was graduation day for the regular school kids, and, in the small town of Slatersville, that was a big deal. A carnival and fair had been set up in a local field, and the early summer evening had a magical air to it. Anabelle and her friends, Alesha and Sam, set out to enjoy the fair, to stroll along and check out the carny booths and dine on carnival delights. She watched as the others rode on the rides and screamed at the wild curves and dips, her eye always attuned to a possible photographic subject. She was seventeen now, and her eighteenth birthday was not that far away. The future seemed wide-open and full of promise for Anabelle and her friends as they celebrated Alesha and her other friends’ graduations. As she had promised, Anabelle was home by eleven, and she planned on falling asleep while watching a movie on her laptop. The next morning, she awoke to the horrified scream of her mother who didn’t recognize her. Her father seemed menacing as he demanded to know why she was in their home, and even her dog growled as he would at a stranger. Anabelle knew she was still herself, and she had the photographs from the carnival to prove it, but she had seemed to have fallen through the cracks into another world and had lost her home.
Melissa Volker’s young adult coming of age story, Anabelle Lost is a beguiling and haunting look at a sheltered young woman’s abrupt upheaval from small town life into a stranger’s existence. While I was immediately concerned when Anabelle was taken away by the authorities and hospitalized, I cheered as she realizes that lying is her only recourse to avoid being held for observation. Then, I could feel her angst and utter sense of isolation as she wanders the streets she’s known all her life and is seen by the people she grew up with as a stranger, as an interloper who was found, much like Goldilocks in the fairy tale, in someone else’s bed. How she holds on to her identity and adapts to her most unusual situation is the stuff of a most enchanting novel. Anabelle’s strengths, her gifts, her resolute belief in herself hold her in good stead throughout a situation that would challenge the most seasoned adult, and all this happens while she is still an adolescent, even if she is an old soul. Anabelle and her friend, the artist and itinerant, Trent, are marvelous main characters the reader can’t help but come to care about. Volker’s plot is original, compelling and irresistible as the familiar is turned on its edges, and the photographer who loved seeing the strange angles and play of light is set adrift in her own world that is hiding within the cracks of reality. Anabelle Lost is a first-rate coming of age paranormal thriller and it’s most highly recommended.