Finding Mia by Rachel K. Burke

Publication Date: January 8th, 2012
Format: E-copy
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Intelligent and fiercely independent, sixteen-year-old Mia Marchette has never had a childhood. After her father’s disappearance when she was six, she has alone borne the burden of her mother’s bipolar disorder.
When her mother is institutionalized after a failed suicide attempt, Mia is abruptly forced to live with the estranged father she has not known for ten years. She is shocked to discover that he has created a new, picture-perfect life for himself, and is now living with a stepmother and a half-sister Mia never knew she had. Together, Mia and her new family must face the bitterness, mistakes, and long-hidden secrets that threaten to destroy their precarious happiness.
Finding Mia follows Mia’s journey as she searches to find the unanswered questions from her past, leading to her own self-discovery.
Ultimately, this is a story of confronting pain and finding freedom, of letting go and learning to search for love in unexpected places.

I’ve always been an emotional reader. I hardly notice grammatical errors unless they’re blatantly obvious. More often, I tend to criticize the characters more than the author’s writing prowess. Finding Mia was a book where I got so involved with the characters’ respective psyches that it may have affected my rating. On the other hand, I believe that good books are written to incite emotions so even if I didn’t like how the characters acted, I think the author was successful in that respect. 

This book was difficult to get through – with characters that are even more difficult to understand. You have a teen girl who has struggled to exist with a mother who slowly lost herself to bipolar disorder and a father who abandoned them when he could no longer handle the pressure. He was selfish, and hard to forgive. He found solace with another woman whom he eventually married and had another child with. When everything came to a head, Mia found herself in the care of strangers – her father and his wife.

On top of everything else, Mia is dealing with the usual hassles that teens go through. The pressure of wanting to belong, a pregnancy scare and a boyfriend developing a substance abuse. It’s a wonder she didn’t lose her mind. My struggles to understand the characters stem from the fact that they weren’t able to convince me with how they dealt with the mental disorder. The therapy sessions, specifically read more like unfinished conversations between the physician and Mia and her father. 

The narrative is told through everyone’s “stingy” point of views. It doesn’t really give much as to how everyone actually felt – they all seem emotionless and detached from the situation. This was unfortunate considering the heaviness of the subject matters that were discussed. I also found that there was a distinct lack of cohesiveness and smooth flow when the author switches from one point of view to the next. It made for a choppy read.
I can’t forgive a father who thought that being young once excuses his daughter from drug use. I just can’t. Just because you want to make up for the times you missed being a father doesn’t mean you’d be willing to forgive her for everything. And while I understand her need to rebel, Mia’s polarizing personalities didn’t make any sense.  The Mia who has had to take care of her mother seemed smarter; but the Mia who had no choice but to live with her father’s family was not. She’s irresponsible and juvenile. I don’t know how she can just hitch a ride from a stranger to see her drug addict of a boyfriend. She was lost in her impetuous anger that more often, she didn’t seem to be thinking at all.
Suzanne, her step mother didn’t seem like a very realistic character.  She took on the maternal role to a teenager quite easily. She wasn’t intimidated by the fact that she was going to alienate Mia by being the disciplinarian. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mia could use all the discipline she handed over but she didn’t hesitate at all when she’d ground Mia for doing something wrong. I guess my point is, they’re practically strangers; there has to be a moment when Suzanne would think it odd to punish a teen she barely knew.
There was also a sense that Mia and her father wasn’t all that estranged from each other. It was in the way they tackled on Denise’s (Mia’s mother) treatments. The family therapy sessions should’ve highlighted the fact that her father wasn’t around through the bad episodes of Mia’s mother but no. In fact, he sounded like he stuck around when he didn’t. I can’t be sympathetic to what he was going through because the reality is, he abandoned ship. 

Overall, I think this book didn’t really give me any closure. I was left unsatisfied but couldn’t really say I wanted more. 

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