February’s theme for Buzzwordathon is ‘verbs’. Because the act of taking something is a verb, I chose to read The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon. When creating a mystery story, it’s important to make the characters distinct from one another. This way, the reader will be able to keep track of who is who. How Joan achieves this goal is by describing the characters, from what they look like to their personalities. When talking about her friend, Lorna, the protagonist, Christina, says “Lorna is what they call “outgoing” and always seems to know the right things to say”. Meanwhile, Christina describes herself as someone who tends “to keep things all bottled up inside me”. Making these two characters opposites of each other is one way Joan helps the reader remember the story’s characters.
Throughout the book, Christina makes several contradictions that could make a reader frustrated with her. Toward the beginning of the story, while visiting Lorna at her house, Christina contemplates on what should be important in her life. Even though she turns to her friend for advice, Christina is unsure which direction will lead her to an answer. A chapter later, shortly after she’s been kidnapped, Christina asks “Will my children someday have any idea of what I’m like inside”? This quote implies she already knows what is important to her: having a family in the future. If she already found what’s important to her, why would Christina bother to question what is important in the first place? As the story continues, Christina contradicts herself again, by discovering the most important thing, to her, is herself. Didn’t she already figure out what was important back in chapter three?
In all honesty, I can’t recommend The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore. This is because of how weak the story is. It is possible to tell a “coming of age” story while also giving the characters a mystery to solve. Instead of evenly balancing these two concepts, Joan prioritizes Christina’s “coming of age” story over the mystery itself. That decision led to a book where suspense is far and few between, as well as a novel that lacks urgency. What also doesn’t help was how the kidnappers’ identities were revealed earlier in the story. There is an overarching mystery about an unknown kidnapper in Christina’s case. But the aforementioned reveal took away some of the book’s intrigue.
Overall score: 2.1 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: Because this story includes a kidnapping, some readers may be sensitive to this book. Other subjects that may be offensive to some readers are:
— Some occasions where characters swear
— Christina refers to her father as a “bigot” due his religious beliefs
— Christina, a high school junior, develops a crush on a college sophomore
— Some occasions of violence
— The subject of teen pregnancy is briefly referenced