Fifteen-year-old Lydia Pasternak’s older brother Danny has just disappeared, and overnight her life changes. She was once practically invisible in her own family, overshadowed by her popular, athletic, fun older brother, and now she is the only one her parents have to pay attention to. She was once invisible in her school, too, but now everyone wants to talk to her about Danny, wants to get her perspective on what might have happened to him, how she is feeling, how her parents are holding up. Although Lydia’s feelings about Danny have always been mixed, she finds herself caring deeply about learning where he is, and becoming involved in the investigation. As time passes without answers, Lydia’s life goes on, completely different from before, yet so much the same. And when Danny’s whereabouts are finally revealed, Lydia is changed forever.
Can I just say how much I loved Lydia in this novel? What struck me most about The Local News was how refreshingly real Lydia’s character was. She and Danny hadn’t gotten along for years, in fact he was her biggest tormentor, always making fun of her, hurting her physically, encouraging his friends to do the same, etc. So it only makes sense that upon his disappearance Lydia didn’t really know how to feel. On the one hand, he’s her brother, of course she’s upset and wants to find him, but on the other hand, it’s quite a relief not to worry about what kind of mood he’s in all the time. The way Lydia navigated between these two extremes of emotion in the wake of Danny’s disappearance rang so true to me, and I loved that about her.
While the focus of The Local News is Lydia, the other characters were well-drawn too. Her parents, while seemingly absent from her life throughout the book, reacted in the way any parent would react if their golden child disappeared from their lives. And I liked that Gershow made no fuss about the fact that Danny was their “favorite” – in some families, that’s just the way it is, and Lydia’s parents clearly placed more importance on Danny’s well-being than Lydia’s. Perhaps they felt that Lydia could take care of herself, that she didn’t need them as much as her brother, or perhaps his personality was just easier to love than Lydia’s, whatever the reason it was apparent that Danny was the star of the family. And I loved the authenticity of this family, as heartbreaking as it was for Lydia.
What impacted me the most about this story, as I closed it for the last time, was all of the unanswered questions. The reader does learn what happened to Danny, but there are so many what if’s about the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t get into the specific questions I had, but let’s just say that I was left thinking about this novel for a long time. And for me, that’s a great place to be after finishing a book.
I am not sure that my review did justice to how much I loved the experience of reading The Local News, but I do know that it is a fantastic novel and a must-read. I highly encourage you to pick it up for yourself.