I don’t think Finding Paris would’ve ended up in my reading pile, had it not met the basic qualification for my project Sunsets and Neon Lights: fiction set in Las Vegas. Finding Paris is a YA novel about two sisters: Leo, the younger sister who’s studious and ready to get the hell out of Vegas for college and Paris, the older sister who is ~so bohemian~ and goes missing, hence the title of the book. Finding Paris is a fast and entertaining read, but it is not without Problems.
Reviewing this book is very difficult without discussing major plot points, so there be spoilers up ahead…
So Paris goes missing because she’s ditched Leo at a diner and leaves ~*~mysterious clues~*~ for her sister to follow. These mysterious clues take Leo all around Vegas, namely Paris Hotel, The Stratosphere, and the Luxor. In regards to the place setting of Vegas, it’s like JP picked up a Vegas trip guide, picked some places that sounded cool, and decided to insert them into her story. One thing that really threw me was Leo and Paris’ favorite sister bonding activity is driving up and down the Strip, which frankly, I find it hard to believe because the traffic is always ridiculous. The setting never “felt” Vegas. It was just there, thanks to details about the Luxor’s inclinators, the roller coaster on top of the Stratosphere, etc.
On top of that qualm, you have the improbability of the whole story. When Paris ditches Leo at the diner, she leaves little sis with a guy she just met. Said gentleman is named Max, and he has no personality aside from bizarrely agreeing to drive Leo around Vegas and eventually LA. He works at the Atomic Testing Museum, because hey! another tourist-y tidbit for young readers.
I spent most of the story frustrated at Paris because who leaves their little sister at a strange place without any cell phone, money, or car? It becomes quickly obvious that Paris was not kidnapped and is instead leading Leo around. SPOILER And it turns out the reason for this chase is because Paris wants to get Leo out of Vegas while she steals a co-worker’s gun to presumably shoot their step-father, who is revealed to have repeatedly raped Leo. END SPOILER
There are some clues about the stepfather’s sinister behavior throughout the story and Leo and Paris’ mother is wrapped up in her job and actually quite blasé about Paris’ disappearance (“she’s a drama queen” is the refrain from the “adults” of the story), so this development is not entirely out of left field. However, that crumbled the whole story: if Paris wanted to protect her sister, CALL THE POLICE! TELL YOUR COUNSELOR! TALK TO ANY AUTHORITY FIGURE! I can’t decide if it’s nonsensical writing or writing that skated by on the fact that many victims of sexual assault are treated like liars. That is the unfortunate reality that many victims face; however, it does not excuse a convoluted plot.
And honestly, that Max fellow who’s been carting Leo around and of course they shared a couple kisses because it’s a YA novel (like duhhhhh), is kind of moot character. For a book about a sister trying to protect her sister who’s been violated in the absolute worst way, introducing a handsome young man to mack with seems like inserting a character just to sell books. If this story is supposed to be about two sisters and their unconditional, undying devotion to each other, why have the love interest at all?
So, eh. The only redeeming quality was I was able to stay engaged in the story and read it pretty quickly. But I had been reading Joan Didion all week, so it’s likely my brain would’ve read anything lighter.