Chloe Cates is Missing

- Mandy McHugh

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Chloe Cates is missing. The 13-year-old star of the hit web series, “CC and Me,” has disappeared, and nobody knows where she’s gone – least of all ruthless momager Jennifer Scarborough, who has spent much of her daughter’s young life crafting a child celebrity persona that is finally beginning to pay off. And in Chloe’s absence, the faux-fairytale world that supported that persona begins to fracture, revealing secrets capable of reducing the highly-dysfunctional Scarborough family to rubble.

Anxious to find her daughter and preserve the life she’s worked so hard to build, Jennifer turns to social media for help, but the hearsay, false claims, and salacious suspicions only multiply. As the search becomes as sensational as Chloe’s series, Missing Persons detective Emilina Stone steps in, only to realize she has a connection to this case herself. Will she be able to stay objective and cut through the rumors to find the truth before it’s too late?

Genres:

My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Scarlet for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

enjoyable / easy to read:
3.5/5

Emilina is the only likable character in Chloe Cates is Missing. She’s the most complex, realistic person and the only one who seems to contain shades of grey. Most of the other characters are fairly one-dimensional and only exhibit good or bad – well, mostly bad in this book. Emilina survived a terrible experience as a teenager and probably made the wrong choice in the moment (and moving forward), but she’s done something with her life to atone for these choices. It certainly doesn’t mean she’s not culpable but does show her to be an actual human capable of expressing feelings like empathy and guilt. I enjoyed her chapters the most; she is intelligent and capable, and I found her emotional turmoil compelling while she wrestled with the memories this case forces her to relive.

A person's character can wax and wane, but it's as indestructible as the moon. Once a mean girl, always a mean girl.

Jennifer, on the other hand, is a piece of work. Sure, she had a rough childhood, but she seems to have very little awareness of the concept of cause and effect: if you keep letting people who bully you into your life, you will continue to be bullied. Jennifer always justifies her actions and only views others (even within her own family) as objects to further her own desires. The most unbelievable aspect of her character is that she doesn’t see herself for who she truly is. Generally, those who act at this level of manipulative psychopathy are aware of what they are doing. Instead, Jennifer seems convinced she’s the victim. Since we get chapters from her perspective, we know she’s not just playing the victim, and she isn’t cold and calculated, which one would expect from someone who plans such terrible actions from a young age. Jennifer is wildly emotional, believes everyone is plotting against her and that others force her into using them for her own gain. It’s doubtful she would get away with anything
let alone murder
in this emotional state.

Jackson is certainly no mastermind. After years with Jennifer, he’s mostly pathetic with a serious victim mentality. The excuse ‘my wife made me do it‘ isn’t acceptable for anything
let alone child abuse.
His useless attempts to help make everything worse, and he’s so spineless he ends up hurting way more than he helps. I’m fairly apathetic where he’s concerned, with a few spikes of disgust for his behaviour.

The blog stuff felt unrealistic and dated. No one seriously trying to stay relevant would ignore TikTok, and it’s impossible they wouldn’t be on YouTube if they had been around for so long – they wouldn’t have such an impressive following without it. The whole thing felt pathetic, not to mention traumatising, to let one child attend school while you homeschool the other one so you can force her into social media fame. It screams out for child protective services to get involved.

Though juvenile at times, the story is well-written and has enough twists and misdirects to keep it exciting, and I found it hard to put down. While I had a pretty good idea of where things were going, the path was unique and gripping. I enjoyed this read full of unlikable and inexcusably terrible people – I’m just glad Emilina was around to add balance and clarity.

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