London – the present: Holly Smith has never fitted in. Adopted when just a few months old, she’s always felt she was someone with no history. All she has is the address of where she was born – 32B Gambier Terrace, Liverpool. When Holly discovers that the flat is available to rent, she travels north and moves in. And in the very same flat, under the floorboards, she finds a biscuit tin full of yellowing papers. Could these papers be the key to her past?
Liverpool – 1981: Fifteen-year-old Darren is negotiating life with his errant mother and the younger brother he is raising. When the Toxteth Riots explode around him, Darren finds himself with a moral dilemma that will have consequences for the rest of his life. Moving between the past and the present, Darren and Holly’s lives become intertwined. Will finding Darren give Holly the answers she craves? Or will she always feel like the girl who just appeared?
Firstly, can I just say: don’t judge this book by its title! I feel like “The Girl a who Just Appeared” makes it sound kind of like a standard ‘chick-litty’ novel when in actual fact there’s so much more to it!
The story is set in two different eras; the ‘current day’ story is told by Holly, whose adoptive parents have died so she is desperate to track down the parents who gave her up, and Darren, whose diary tells the story of him growing up in 1980’s Liverpool.
I loved both narratives- Holly’s is easier to read and flows better whilst Darren’s is often written phonetically, as he isn’t very good at spelling, and so you really have to concentrate at some points to work out what he means. I feel like this really adds to the story and serves as a constant reminder of what a bad education poor Darren has evidently had.
I really got a strong sense of atmosphere whilst reading The Girl Who Just Appeared. I honestly felt like I was RIGHT THERE in 1981 when the Toxteth Riots were kicking off, and I REALLY wanted Holly to find out what had happened when she was given up for adoption. The novel addresses many tricky themes (I won’t list them all here as it might give away some of the surprises) and deals with them all very well, in my opinion! There were various twists which I loved, and although I suspected a few of them I certainly didn’t guess them all! The way it enveloped me when reading it made me realise what a fantastic book this is.
I just loved this novel, from the beginning to the very last page. It was emotional without being overly dramatic, touching without being cheesy, humorous without it taking away from the serious subject matter, and full of twists without being ridiculous. The characters were brilliant and so well developed by Harvey; I haven’t read any other books by him but I definitely will be now!
I highly recommend this novel to anyone, I can’t imagine anyone really hating it to be honest (but who knows!)
Have you read The Girl Who Just Appeared? What did you think?