When sixteen-year-old Yin Mitchell is abducted, the news reverberates through the whole Year Ten class at Balmoral Ladies College. As the hours tick by, the girls know the chance of Yin being found alive is becoming smaller and smaller.
Everyone is affected by Yin’s disappearance—even scholarship student Chloe, who usually stays out of Balmoral dramas, is drawn into the maelstrom. And when she begins to form an uneasy alliance with Natalia, the queen of Year Ten, things get even more complicated.
Chilling and haunting, Leanne Hall’s latest YA novel The Gaps follows two high school students after one of their classmates is abducted. At first, the novel feels like a psychological thriller, like the crime is the central focus and we’ll find out what happened by the end of the novel. But, soon after 16-year-old Yin goes missing, the book unfolds into a nuanced tale about fear, vulnerability, and the frightening reality that Yin’s abduction could happen to any of the other girls in this book.
The novel feels very close to reality. Women being abducted, and often murdered, is a common occurrence in the news. Women don’t feel safe walking down the street, or even in their own homes, and Leanne takes that very real fear and embeds it into a really fantastic novel for teenagers. Young women reading The Gaps will relate to the sense of foreboding in the novel, the tension, and how scared the characters are.
“There had been a lot of gossip going around about various teachers, but the police profile seemed to have put an end to it. It said that the offender might travel with his job, and would definitely be away from home or work regularly. That couldn’t be any of our teachers.”
The Gaps navigates two different POVs. First, we meet scholarship student Chloe, who didn’t really know Yin but they shared classes together. Chloe is mature and compassionate, and possesses quite a calm yet fragile personality.
And then we meet fellow student Natalia, queen bee and resident popular girl in the school. She was best friends with Yin before high school, and holds great regret about the way their friendship fizzled. Natalia is traumatised by what’s happened; she’s snappy and spiky, with a short fuse. She’s angry, but she doesn’t quite know where to channel her energy.
Chloe and Natalia’s voices are unique and distinct, capturing very different teenagers. However, what they both have in common is a raw, emotional response to Yin’s disappearance. They can’t shake the feeling that they’ll never feel truly safe.
Leanne’s characters are expertly crafted and immensely relatable. Chloe and Natalia, among the secondary characters, are brave, bold and fierce.
“I want to ask her how that can be fair — what if there’s information that could keep more girls safe, if only they knew it? But I swallow the question, because the last thing I want to be, or look to be, is scared.”
Leanne’s writing is enchanting. She writes first person incredibly well, describing events around the characters with poise and visuality. Each chapter is a snapshot into Chloe and Natalia’s life, capturing moments of tension and wariness, but also great exhaustion. Women are sick of feeling so vulnerable, and scared of events that are outside of their control.
Chloe and Natalia are both insightful and observant, and incredibly likeable. Despite its harrowing subject matter, readers will love this book.
“I wonder if I can turn this burning feeling into anything good, anything meaningful. It seems impossible, I’m not even proper artist. Still, I open my sketchbook, find a blank page and start writing.”
The Gaps is a poignant, raw exploration of teenage friendship, grief, terror, and the fears that women develop from a young age. Highly recommended for readers of all ages.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.