Review: The Girl Who Never Came Home by Nicole Trope

Title: The Girl Who Never Came Home

Author: Nicole Trope

Published: 4th November 2020, Bookoutre

Read: November 2020 courtesy Bookoutre/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

“Zoe was sixteen. Zoe was beautiful, precocious, flirtatious, clever, funny, angry, defiant. Zoe was her baby and her baby is gone.”

It takes them twenty three hours to find the body of sixteen year old Zoe Bloom at the base of a small cliff, just metres from the edge of the school camp site she had been attending in the Blue Mountains. Her mother, Lydia, is devastated, and puzzled, and angry, desperate to know why her precious daughter won’t be coming home.

Unfolding from multiple perspectives The Girl Who Never Came Home is a heart rending, poignant drama about grief, secrets, betrayal, guilt and love.

Lydia is immediately a sympathetic character, the loss of a child is every parents worst nightmare, and Trope’s portrayal of a grieving mother’s volatile emotional state feels authentic. Having already lost her daughters father to cancer, this tragedy is almost more than Lydia can bear, and her grief is compounded by the questions that surround Zoe’s death.

Like most sixteen year olds Zoe was neither all one thing, nor the other – though often thought of as lively, bright, and charming, she could also be rebellious, selfish, petty, and mean-spirited. As the police investigate her untimely death they must consider all the possibilities- could it be suicide, and accident or murder?

In the aftermath, Zoe’s sister, Jessie; her best friends, Shayna and Becca; the teachers supervising the camp, Bernadette and Paula, among others, are forced to examine their conscience. Trope’s portrayal of each distinct character is convincing, and as each considers what role, if any, they played in Zoe’s demise, secrets are revealed, edging the reader closer to discovering the truth.

Trope thoughtfully touches on issues common in adolescence including friendship, bullying, eating disorders, dating, risk-taking and the use of social media, but it’s the often mercurial and complicated relationships between mothers and daughters that are in focus. With the revelations that come after Zoe’s death, Lydia can’t help but wonder if she knew her daughter at all, a feeling exacerbated when she learns that Jessie too has been keeping secrets.

The Girl Who Never Came Home is an emotional, suspenseful, and compulsive read. I think it would particularly be an excellent choice for a mother-daughter book club, sure to provoke much discussion.


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Also by Nicole Trope reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope


Title: The Boy in the Photo

Author: Nicole Trope

Published: June 18th 2019, Bookoutre

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Bookoutre/Netgalley


My Thoughts:


The premise of The Boy in the Photo, Nicole Trope’s ninth domestic thriller, is topical and heartbreaking.

As the school playground empties, Megan begins to wonder where her six year old son, Daniel, is. Learning he has been collected earlier by his father, her heart sinks, and it quickly becomes clear that in an act of extraordinary spite, her abusive ex-husband has taken Daniel and vanished.

Six years later, having recently married the Detective initially assigned to Daniel’s case, and given birth to a daughter, Megan receives the call she feared would never come. Her son has been found.

The Boy in the Photo unfolds from the perspectives of Megan and Daniel, revealing events that occurred during their period of separation, and the story of their reunion. It’s a heart wrenching situation, sensitively explored by the author. While Megan searches for her missing son, struggling with her enormous loss, Daniel is living an itinerant, isolated lifestyle with his father. His homecoming should be the happy ending they both deserve, but Daniel is not the loving, happy little boy Megan remembers, instead he is an angry, sullen teen, mourning his father, and contemptuous of Megan. The inevitable twist is somewhat predictable, but still thrilling.

Megan and Daniel immediately invite sympathy. Trope’s characterisation of an anguished mother yearning for her missing child, and a traumatised boy confused by his father’s unpredictable behaviour, is skilful and sensitive. I found Daniel’s attitudes and behaviours on his return to be believably rendered. I’m afraid I didn’t think the same of Megan’s however, which was a big sticking point for me. Every time Daniel acted out, and Megan was at a loss, I wondered why the two of them weren’t in intensive counselling. In no way would one hour a week with a therapist, whom Megan didn’t even trust, be responsible in these circumstances. To be fair, that probably would have been a difficult plotting obstacle for the author, but it bugged me, and honestly affected my response to the story.

Having read five of Nicole Trope’s backlist novels, all of which I’d enthusiastically recommend, I do think this story is slightly weaker. Nevertheless, I did find The Boy In the Photo to be an emotionally charged and affecting read.


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Also by Nicole Trope reviewed on Book’d Out