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The Mystery of Hollow Places

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All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 26, 2016

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About the author

Rebecca Podos

8 books327 followers
Rebecca Podos' debut novel, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a B&N Best YA Book of 2016. Her second book, LIKE WATER, won the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Children's and Young Adult. THE WISE AND THE WICKED, her third novel, was recently released. Her forthcoming books include FOOLS IN LOVE (Running Press Kids, 2021) a co-edited YA anthology with author Ashley Herring Blake, and FROM DUST, A FLAME (Balzer + Bray, 2022). A graduate of the Writing, Literature and Publishing Program at Emerson College, she’s an agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston by day.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 380 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
January 31, 2016
There’s a reason for everything, if you look hard enough. An answer for every mystery.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is a strange book. It's a psychological mystery written with an artistic flair - by that, I do not mean the prose is purplish, but that it is built up around carefully-woven metaphors for mental illness and depression. I liked Podos's style very much.

The book's opening chapter hooked me instantly. We hear of the bedtime story that Imogene was told by her father, a tale perhaps too impossible to be true, but one which sets the mood for the novel - that underlying feeling of sad, lonely emptiness we tend to call "depression". But don't worry; this is a not a dramatically depressing book. It is far too subtle and clever for that.
"She said this feeling inside her was . . . it was anti-feeling. Like a black hole in space, and everything—happiness, anger, hope, meaning—it would all get sucked in, tipped over the event horizon, and she couldn’t feel any of it.”

Imogene's mother was a troubled woman who ran away from the family when Imogene was a baby. Now, years later, Imogene's father (an author of medical mysteries) leaves in the middle of the night and doesn't come back. Convinced he's looking for her mother, Imogene sets out to track him down, using the knowledge she has gathered from reading his books.

Of course, more questions and mysteries will emerge before this one is solved, and Imogene will find herself tangled up in her family's history.

The Mystery of Hollow Places book is about so many things that it's hard to know where to start. Firstly, it is a psychological mystery that takes a look at the effects of depression. But it is also about a teenage girl trying to figure herself out. There's mentions of feminism and criticisms of slut-shaming. The characters are diverse and Imogene herself is mixed race. And she has a great support network of awesome female characters.

Her best friend, Jessa:
Jessa tips her head onto my shoulder. “Who needs boys, anyway?”
Resting my cheek on the top of her tangled hair, I try to smile. “Definitely not us.”

Her stepmother, Lindi:
“Imogene Mei Scott, you need to realize that you’re a strong young woman who is perfectly capable of having a great time sans male.”

The friendship between Imogene and Jessa makes for some very funny moments that had me laughing out loud. And I also enjoyed reading about Imogene's crush on Jessa's brother. Surprisingly, it was not just another excuse to squeeze in some romantic angst, but was more about establishing Imogene as a normal, albeit smart and emotionally mature, teenage girl.

A very interesting book, with some scenes that are so perfectly-written I had to read them again. I genuinely look forward to what the author writes next.

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Profile Image for ♛Tash.
223 reviews211 followers
December 10, 2015
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There is a glowing foreword by a HarperCollins' executive editor on the arc that I received. He says that I have in my hands the debut novel of a phenomenally talented writer. That this book is deep, literary, sophisticated exploration of teen identity wrapped in the tropes and structure of a classic mystery novel. Sounds delightful right? I truly wish it was.

Imogene's father is missing. He apparently just walked out in the middle of the night and was never heard or seen again. Imogene is all too familiar with the pain of being left behind, after all her own mother left her when she was a baby. She and her stepmother refuse to believe that her father, a medical mystery writer, would just up and leave like that. Imogene needs to find her father as he's all she's got left. *play You and Me Against the World by Helen Reddy*

Employing the methods of all the literary detectives she's read about, Imogene unearths the mystery that is her mother, believing her mother is the key to finding her father.

Let me start with the good. Mr. Executive Editor was right, Rebecca Podos is a promising writer. Her writing is elegant. The beginning of this novel was quite compelling when Imogene was narrating how her father, then a medical examiner found a gem in the hollow of a dead woman's heart. After that though, I found myself less invested.

This is not a terrible book, it just did not work for me at all.The primary reason why I did not like this as much as I wanted to was because I did not connect to the main character and narrator, Imogene Scott. At face value, she's my homegirl - a book loving introvert who carries a book in her purse at all times. She is also a loner who, with the exception of her Dad, downplays all other relationships as mutualism, nothing more. These all make her interesting, but she is also a dour and somewhat judgmental narrator. She has a great friend Jessa whom she treats like a shallow rich girl who has nothing better to do but Tweet and date around, despite being friends forever. Dour and judgmental- a combination that overpowered all other likable things about our main character. If she can also pipe down on Jessa's America's Next Top Model body and beauty that would've been great. I get it, she's beautiful and you're supposedly plain, just move on.

The story itself, about a girl piecing together a past from wherever she could find the pieces, is not ground breaking. It's been done and better imo in On the Jellicoe Road, which is fine, but what dismayed me was the representation of people with depression. Heavy stuff. I don't have first hand experience with this but I've interacted with people who have been diagnosed with clinical depression. They've got bad, worse and worst days, but are still considerate human beings who try their best to function despite their condition. In this novel though, it seemed like the people with depression are self-absorbed flakes without any notion of consequence or regard to loved ones.

The resolution to the central mystery was also a let down because it was more of the same idealizations.It got tiresome. Even with the revelation of years of darkness and woe, all it left me feeling was an overwhelming meh.

We all understand loneliness and how it fools us into thinking that no one is or will ever be there for us, that we're alone. The Mystery of Lonely Places tells us that loneliness is a choice, just like happiness. It is really an exquisite message, if only it were carried out better.

***ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review***
Profile Image for Evie.
711 reviews925 followers
September 21, 2015
Quietly powerful and deeply moving, The Mystery Of Hollow Places deals with mental illness, child abandonment, strained family relationships and recognizing what matters most in our lives. It's not an edge-of-your-seat mystery and it's not a thriller - not by a long shot - but it's an excellent psychological drama and a skillfully constructed puzzle. Slow-moving, but insightful and illuminating. Messy and wildly emotional.

"I could forgive my mother for being cursed, and lonely, and troubled waters. All of that made sense. But I don't think I'll be able to forgive her if she's happy."

When Imogene was only two, her mother left and never came back. All Im knows about her is what her dad told her - and he didn't say much. Just that she was troubled waters, incredibly sad and lonely. Now, when Imogene is 17, her father disappears without a trace, too. The only thing that he leaves behind, is a rock that is somehow related to Im's grandmother. To Imogene, this is not a parting gift, but a clue. She believes that her dad went looking for her mom. And she is determined to find him.

I can't tell you just how much this book means to me. The story evoked so many hibernated emotions, I could hardly stop myself from crying. Many readers won't think twice about Imogene, because it's hard to empathize with a character so guarded and troubled. I was able to do that, because I went through a similar thing in my life. And I can tell you that Rebecca Podos did an excellent job depicting Imogenes struggles and feelings. Even seemingly silly and meaningless scenes carry incredible weight and serve to show how much Imogene's past (the absence of her mother, her father's bipolar disorder and the new woman in his life, etc) weighed down on her and shaped her perception of the world and people around her. Im felt very real to me and I was able to fully connect with her character, perhaps even more than I felt comfortable with. As a daughter once similarly abandoned by one of the parents, and a mom to a two year old baby girl, I was deeply emotional while reading this book. I picked up on all the little things and clues to Im's psychological and emotional state. My heart was bleeding for her all throughout the book, but I was also both enraged at and sorry for her parents - both the estranged mother and the bipolar father.

I won't lie, when I went into this story, I was expecting something a bit different. I thought this was a high-intensity mystery/thriller, and I expected Imogene to uncover some dark and twisted mysteries - maybe even a couple bodies. But this isn't that kind of book. It's a sublime read for many other reasons. Not a cheap-thrill type of story full of shocking twists and unexpected discoveries, but more of a sophisticated and unexpectedly hard-hitting meditation on family relationships and mental illness, and how people in our lives help shape who we are. This book reminded me in part of Winter Bones, and in part of early works of Jennifer McMahon and Elizabeth Scott.

Podos' prose is incredibly fluid, her writing - straightforward and very eloquent. The build-up is slow and more impatient readers might find it too boring for their tastes, but if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded with true heartbreak and conclusion full of hope. I am delighted to have discovered this brilliant new author and will definitely be following her carrier closely.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,725 reviews1,277 followers
January 27, 2016
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“One night, my mother left us, taking a suitcase, no money, and half of the heart with her. She sent the divorce papers through a process server a little while later.”

This was an interesting mystery story about a girl searching for her missing father.

Imogene was a likeable character in this story, and it was unfortunate that after having her mother leave her as a baby, she was then left by her father too! I thought she did really well to follow clues and to try to track down both her mother and her father, and she persevered even when things got tough.

The storyline in this book revolved around Imogene trying to work out what had happened to her mother, in hopes that it would lead her to where her father was, and I liked the mystery element of the book and the search for Imogene’s missing parents.

The ending to this wrapped things up nicely, and I was satisfied with the way things ended.

7 out of 10
Profile Image for Ashley Blake.
Author 13 books3,980 followers
December 5, 2015
This book is gorgeous, wise, emotional, & messy. The voice is all at once authentically teenage girl & vulnerable & brave. It's not an easy book, but a beautiful one & that's even better. Put this on your TBRs, because this book shows us that answers are rarely simple, rarely easy, but love can exists in between all that, and that choices are powerful. And I think we all need that reminder from time to time.
Profile Image for Mariana.
392 reviews1,698 followers
July 16, 2016
“This happened, he knew from his school days; with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.”

This is a story about a 17 year old girl named Imogene, whose father has gone missing. Imogene's dad is a succesful mystery writter who also happens to have bipolar disorder. "Im" is particularly attached to him because her mother left them when she was only two.

She is convinced that her father left her all the clues that she needs to find him, and she's also certain that if she manages to track down her long lost mother, she will also find her dad. This is how Imogene embarks on an investigation that will bring back painful memories, answer many questions, and finally show her what she's really capable of.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is Rebecca Podos's first novel and, boy, this woman can write. Her style is very beautiful without being over the top. Since the first chapter she gives us a great picture of Imogene's life and how scared she is of being like her mom: a troubled woman who rather disappear than stay to raise her daughter.

The women in that family were cursed. They could be lonely wherever the were.

Imogene is a very well constructed character. She is not super likeable, she is resentful, sad and conviced that she can do things on her own, therefore she pushes away everyone who cares about her. However, her best friend Jessa acts as a counterpart, constantly reminding us that Imogene is not only facing the disapparence of her dad, but also the everyday struggles of a highschool student.

I really liked the way the author treated depression and bipolar disorder, neither romanticizing or stigmatizing them. I also really enjoyed the fact that the author made realistic remarks, such as how a highschool student has a limited budget to conduct a missing person investigation on her own.

The story was very compelling. I was eager to find out what had happened to Imogene's dad and the whereabouts of her mom. I think Podos really managed to build up the mystery, create memorable characters and deliver a satisfactory ending (even when I was waiting for a much darker finale, tbh).

I will definetely keep track of her work and you should definetely give this book a chance. This is some of the most refreshing YA I've read lately.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,891 followers
May 22, 2016

The opening chapter of The Mystery of Hollow Places promises a story filled with paranormal mysteries and excitement. It’s one of the best prologues I’ve read in a while and it easily made me want to read the rest in one sitting. I adore atmospheric, creepy mysteries, and I was hoping this would be one. The rest of the book, however, continued in a very different tone.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy what came after. Mostly I liked it because of Imogene Scott, a main character that carries the book easily with the depth of her personality. I wanted to know more about Imogene from the very beginning. She is an unusual girl, a bit of an outsider, with only one friend she seems to trust. After growing up with her father’s forensic mysteries and his struggles with bipolar disorder, she’s very mature and she can be a bit odd and closed off sometimes. When her father disappears, Immy has a single goal – to find him, no matter what it takes. Influenced by his mysteries and his main character, the forensic pathologist, she thinks it’s her job and hers alone to find out where her father has gone. But the mystery of his disappearance is wrapped up in her mother’s abandonment, so Imogen first has to find a woman she doesn’t even remember, and uncover the truth of her parents’ relationship.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is in many ways a strange book. It goes in many different directions and it’s difficult to determine what it’s really about. There were several things I enjoyed thoroughly, starting with Rebecca Podos’ subtle and beautiful writing. I loved how she weaved her story with seeming ease. Nothing about it seemed artificial or forced, and I admire the deep understanding behind each sentence. Characterization is what makes this book strong and memorable, starting (but not ending) with Immy Scott.

Aside from the characters and the writing, though, nothing about this book stood out. The mystery itself was mild and fairly uninteresting. I didn’t read to learn the truth, I read to learn about Imogen and her fascinating thought process. So if you take this book as a mystery of any kind, you might be disappointed, but if you appreciate a very well done coming of age story and mature, beautiful characters, this might just be the book for you.
349 reviews171 followers
February 24, 2016
There are quite literally, a BUTT LOAD of things I loved about this book. You a Mystery fan? Duuuude, do you need this book in your life. Like to see teenagers in sticky situations? Bruh, I found what you want to read. Drama? Coming of Age? Either? Both? Look no further. This book has it all and more.

The Mystery of Hollow Places begins with distraught teen Imogene Scott searching for her missing father, medical mystery writer Joshua Zhi Scott. Joshua, as Imogene describes, is a recluse, and the fact that he left her alone with her step mother, with no explanations, strikes not only as odd, but also super irresponsible. All chances of foul play are quickly ruled out by the local authorities, and when Imogene realises that he has left her a clue, she takes it on herself to solve the mystery of her missing father.

But I’d like to talk mostly about a particular person in this book—and that person is Imogene Scott. Except, to me, Imogene Scott was the most relatable of characters I’ve probably read all year. Imogene Scott was me, and I mean that in the best way possible. The way she talked about things, the way she did things. It was all me. And since I was pretty into the story itself, the fact that I was a 100% invested in the main character too was pure fucking gold.

The book was completely unexpected, what with me only expecting mystery and a bit of a thrill, and this turning out to quite literally be a journey for Imogene. She turned from this almost-always pessimistic person, to this almost-mature person within a week or so, and unbelievable as it may sound, you can only experience it once you’ve started on this journey with Imogene. She’s both smart and driven, but she’s also “emotionally compromised,” owing to the fact that her AWOL birth mother might be the key to the her father’s missing status. The book also explores the kind of sort of rocky feelings Imogene has towards her step-mother, and that was a good change from seeing the all-black/all-white relationships I’m used to seeing between teenagers and their step-parents. One of my favourite, one of the most cringe-worthy parts of the book was where Imogene and her step-mother have this huge showdown, and it really put a lot of things about Imogene in perspective for me.

The Mystery of Hollow Places  is not meant to be a slow read. At least, it wasn’t for me, although my problem was chiefly dreading the end of Imogene’s company. Her voice couldn’t have been more authentic, and I found myself completely immersed in her musings and her thoughts and her complains with the world. I read the book over a span of almost four days and even then, I didn’t want to let the book go! It’s written in a way that makes you feel like you’re a part of the story, you’re right there with Imogene in her search for her father, and you’re all stressed out because what if we can’t find Imogene’s father then what do we do?

Miss Podos has put together this story in such a beautiful way, making this a YA debut that you most definitely need very high up on your TBR. If you’re a lover of Mysteries and Thrills, and in need of a teenage girl who is far too smarter than most adults, then The Mystery of Hollow Places might just be up your alley!

I was provided a free earc of this book by Balzer & Bray through Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review. This did not in any way, however, influence the content of this review.
Profile Image for Drew.
449 reviews504 followers
March 23, 2016
The Mystery of Hollow Places is a beautifully written novel, beginning with an eerie story Imogene's father tells her about her mother.

“The bedtime story my dad used to tell me began with my grandmother’s body.”

Even though it's been years since Imogene's mother left when her daughter was very young, Imogene and her father are still coping with their grief. The absence of Imogene's mother was obviously jarring and traumatic on her dad - he took to drinking and became quite depressed. Then one day he leaves the house without so much as a goodbye note.

As Imogene searches for her dad, tracking down clues about her mom in the process, she comes to terms with her own loss and learns to appreciate the things she does have in her life - good friends, a wonderful stepmom, and a brilliant father, despite his ups and downs.

Imogene's love for reading was absolutely delightful. Her tendency toward books originated from her father, who was a mystery author. Imogene frequently mentioned some of her favorite mystery authors - Daphne du Maurier, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie. And all along, there was an underlying sense that Imogene wasn't just searching for answers in her books, but was searching for her long-lost mother, who she was never able to put out of her mind.

One thing I LOVED was the strong female friendship between Imogene and her best friend, Jessa. These girls were so wonderful together and really built each other up, rather than tearing each other down with jealousy over some guy (something I see way too often in the YA genre). They talked openly about their lives - their problems, interests, and what dress they were wearing to prom. Even when they had a fight, they made up and put it behind them. They were just so refreshing to read about.

This book was really more of a contemporary than a mystery, and I think the title is slightly misleading. I expected a typical murder mystery, but it was actually a simple, quiet story following Imogene's life that exploited her thoughts and feelings toward her parents. I think it will appeal to readers who like a realistic, soul-searching main character and don't mind a bit of whimsy.

“There’s a reason for everything, if you look hard enough. An answer for every mystery.”
Profile Image for Laurie Flynn.
Author 6 books1,076 followers
January 21, 2016
I was immediately intrigued by this book when I read the synopsis, and when I saw the cover, my intrigue turned into a full-blown need to devour the book. And from the first page, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES had my complete attention.

This book is unlike any other I’ve read, and is difficult to classify. It’s intense and psychological and literary, a mystery and a contemporary coming-of-age story rolled into one. It’s about coming to terms with the past and accepting that the future is both uncertain and full of promise. As a lover of books that are impossible to peg in one category, I truly appreciated the originality displayed in these pages.

Imogene Scott is the daughter of a writer of tense medical thrillers. When her father disappears, she suspects that he has gone in search of her mother—the same mother who left the family when Imogene was a baby. Armed with sleuthing skills gleaned from her father’s own books and the precious clue he left behind, Imogene embarks on a mission to find him—and in the process, perhaps the mother she never knew.

This is a book filled with so many shifting layers and depths. It’s like a lake in the sunlight—if you look at it from one angle, you’re certain it’s one color, then you look at it from a different direction and it takes you by surprise. This story took me by surprise more than once. As a reader, I love that—I love when the unexpected happens. And Rebecca Podos is a master of taking the unexpected and wringing it out, mess and all.

I also really loved the female friendship in this book between Imogene and her best friend, Jessa. They’re entirely different, but they learn to appreciate the qualities in each other that the other lacks and lean more on each other as the book progresses.

Haunting and hopeful, visceral and elegant, with a main character I could both relate to and cheer for, THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES will stay with me for a very long time.
Profile Image for S.M. Parker.
Author 4 books186 followers
March 29, 2016
The Mystery of Hollow Places is one of the best YA novels I have ever read. From the voice to the brilliant and flawed main character (and her journey), I could not put this book down. This debut novel by Rebecca Podos has a lot of precise and precious things to say about mental health, forgiveness and identity. To say I loved this book would be a huge understatement. Podos has joined the ranks of insta-buy authors for me and I'm already eager to see what she writes next. No, not eager. I'm impatient to see what she writes next. Because I look forward to being in this authors capable hands once again.
Profile Image for Read with Sandee ・❥・.
645 reviews1,298 followers
September 6, 2016



This book wasn't bad, but it didn't blow my socks off either. It has tons of promise. The premise was enough for me to buy the story. The execution of it though, plus the revelation towards the end, was not really my cup of tea.


Mysterious disappearances

A stone heart

Ambiguous clues to the past


I usually enumerate the prominent characters in the book on this part of my review, but for this one, I'll just focus on the main character, Imogene.

Imogene never knew her mum. She only grew up with her dad, then eventually, her stepmother, Lindy, who was actually pretty nice.

I actually really liked Imogene and her persistence. She wanted what she lost to be found. She was going to do whatever it takes to get them back, to find out what happened in her past.

I really liked how she felt like a real teenager. She had angst, but not too much that it ends up being annoying.



This book really hooked me and got me glued to its pages. You really are curious as to what really happened and why Imogene's parents disappeared. You weren't sure if it was because of a supernatural reason or if it was just because they were depressed people. You have no idea what was happening, and I loved that.


Teens don't always make the most sound decisions. They make mistakes, they don't think things through, and are very often reckless. You'll see that here. But also, you don't see lovestruck teens who has nothing in their brains but boys or girls.


I really hated her parents. They were selfish, and honestly, just don't deserve to have kids.


I'm not really a big fan of slow books, and for me, this was one of them. I get why because you'd have to build the tension, but then again, parts of it dragged longer than was necessary.


I was really expecting to be blown away by the revelation of what really happened to Imogene's parents… but I wasn't. Usually, I'm happy when a book surprises the shit out of me, and this one did, but not in a good way. I really wished it was something more.


I really couldn't think of any book like this at the top of my head right now.


I liked this book for the most part, but the ending really let me down. The thrill of the mystery was done well. Too bad the revelation really didn't deliver as well as I hoped it would.


Profile Image for Emily.
Author 13 books77.6k followers
November 14, 2015
I love-love-love this book. Since finishing it, I've fallen into a spiral of endlessly tweeting about it. The writing is gorgeous: it's so clean, clear, concise but still unique, voicey, vivid. The characters are fully fleshed out and multi-faceted. No one is caricatured; everyone is nuanced. The best characters, in my opinion, were the ones that sneaked (ugh, I that this is a word) up on me. Lindy and Jessa were definitely my favorites, though Immy, her father, and Chadwick were all fantastic too.

The pacing was PERFECT. It moved quickly and kept me fully engaged from start to finish. I could've done with, like, 200 more pages of this and I would've been happy, but since it was so succinct, I'll probably just reread it. Possibly often. Rebecca Podos is going on my insta-buy list. She knows how to tell a story, and she knows how to use words, and it's pretty rare to find someone with both skill-sets equally matched.

This story cut straight to my heart and I'm sure it's going to do that for a lot of readers. I expect it to become an instant classic, a la Laurie Halse Anderson's work.

It reminded me that vulnerability is the only way to heal what's broken, and did it without being preachy or navel-gazing. A+++ will read again, will love thoroughly and forever.
Profile Image for Melissa Gorzelanczyk.
Author 2 books159 followers
October 12, 2015
With a great gift for voice, Rebecca Podos weaves a story of suspense and self-discovery within a family best described as "troubled waters."

Imogene has never met the mother who abandoned her, but when her father goes missing, she convinces herself that he's gone to search for her mom--and decides to do the same.

This book is a raw, honest narrative dealing with tough issues through a main character who's trying to find her place in the world and her family. I highly recommend this beautiful book!

I receive an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Booknut 101.
849 reviews921 followers
February 7, 2016
**To view the original post click here!**

Book cover: The frosty borders of this cover are just stunning - they set the stage for a chilly theme that frames the two mysterious silhouettes perfectly.

But the pièce de résistance of this cover has to be its title. The Mystery of Hollow Places is along the lines of winning titles like The Fault in Our Stars, All The Bright Places, and An Ember in the Ashes. Titles like these hint at the story's main concepts, whilst simultaneously planting seeds of curiosity in the reader's mind.

Anyone else feel the urge to sing 'Let It Go' when looking at the cover?! No? Just me? Oh well...the cold never bothered me anyway ;)

Thoughts: This book is a cauldron of layered metaphors, psychological puzzle pieces, and poignant moments.

The issue of depression is handled with delicacy and tact. It doesn't overpower the book or its plot, but adds to the reader's emotional attachment to the book and its characters.

Imogene is a protagonist dealing with a whole bag full of issues. She's a young woman who is taught messages of strength and empowerment from those around her (which made me SO HAPPY three cheers for female empowerment!!), but still deeply feels the loss of her parents. Which brings up an important question: are you, by yourself, enough?

What makes you you? Is it knowing where your place is? Is it having a supportive network of people around you? Is it knowing your family history...or forgetting it and moving forward?

A book whose style brings together the delights of YA and the intense pace of the mystery genre, The Mystery of Hollow Places is a contemporary novel that is bound to have you falling in love with it, word by word.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
611 reviews574 followers
April 13, 2020
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I am so sad about this one. Based on the synopsis, the theme and the author I was expecting this to be at least a four star read for me. It was not.

I think the main problem was the fact that I did not care for or identify with Imogene at all. She just felt very juvenile to me. I constantly had to remind myself that she was supposed to be SEVENTEEN, not 12. Seventeen-year-old-me would not have been able to relate to her at all... Maybe 13-year-old-me, but definitely not 17-year-old-me.
In a way, I think this could have been a better book if it had been marketed as a middlegrade, but as a YA it was not believable to me.
The set up of the plot, which is always like a detective novel, following 4 or 5 clues, also felt a little simple to me. The clues to convenient... Again, more suitable for a middle-grade than a YA.

On the positive site: the writingstyle was a redeeming quality. You can tell that Rebecca Podos has some great potential as an author, but this did feel very much like a debut.
I also enjoyed the portrail of mental illness in a family, which I felt was handled very well. The way Imogenes dad handles the absense of the mother during Imogenes younger years was sort of moving, but again, only when dealing with a younger child.
Then there was the ending, which, again, let me down. It was a little to neat, a little to sweet and at the risk of repeating myself to infinity: too immature for what it was going for...
I will still continue to read everything Rebecca Podos releases in the future, but unfortunately, this was a bit of a dud for me.
Profile Image for Adriana Mather.
Author 7 books2,341 followers
March 2, 2016
This book is deliciously written. Podos' prose is strong and thoroughly engaging. Imogene Scott (love that name!) is a high school senior whose mother abandoned her at two years of age and whose author father has been writing mysteries throughout her life. When her father also vanishes suddenly, leaving her alone with her stepmother, she puts all of the sleuthing techniques she picked up from reading her father's books to good use: she sets out to solve the mystery of his disappearance and bring him home. This path leads to self-discovery. The pacing of the book is excellent and the voice is original and witty. This was a truly enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Sarah Glenn Marsh.
Author 20 books774 followers
February 1, 2016
I loved this even more than I'd anticipated, coming from reading almost exclusively in SFF! I think YA as a whole can always use more books centered around family, and this family tale is a gorgeous blend of genres with a captivating plot and narrator.

Full review to come, but I wanted to jot down my thoughts as soon as I finished it! Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Jenni.
543 reviews18 followers
May 3, 2019
Imogene has grown up without a mother and has so many questions. Where is she? What is she like? Why did she leave? When her father goes missing, Imogene feels like she needs to find him, so she sets off to do just that. A good mystery, but it was slow until the last 85 pages or so.
Profile Image for Jenn Bishop.
Author 5 books220 followers
February 8, 2016
When Imogene's father, the author of forensic mysteries, goes missing, Imogene thinks she knows where to find him. Using what she's learned from reading his books (and other beloved mysteries), she strikes off with her best friend Jessa and Jessa's brother (who, okay, she *might* have a longtime crush on) to find her long-lost mother, convinced her dad has gone off in search of her.

Both a compelling mystery and a powerfully honest exploration of mental illness, this novel is exquisitely written. Podos has crafted a unique "voice" for Imogene, a hybrid of literary and naturalistic teen language. She displays a real knack for dialogue and a keen understanding of the world of contemporary teenagers. Imogene and Jessa's friendship is utterly authentic, and totally brought me back to my own teenage friendships. The characterizations throughout -- both adult and teen -- are among the most realistically flawed I've come across in recent years.

An intelligent, well-crafted novel from a writer to watch.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,144 reviews1,009 followers
January 4, 2016
This review was originally posted on It Starts at Midnight
The premise of the story is about Imogene, and the fact that her dad has left home with no indication of where he is going, when he'll be back, or if she and her stepmom should be worried sick, which of course, they are. Her stepmom calls the police because she is normal, but Imogene thinks that she will know better where her father is- and suspects it has something to do with her birth mother and the mysterious circumstances that her legacy has been shrouded in.

Let us begin with the stuff that was really great about the book.

First, and foremost, family. This book was so, so much about families and both the love that brings them together and the ugliness that can tear them apart. It's clear that these people, no matter how flawed, care for each other. Imogene's stepmom is awesome. She is not in any way made out to be an "evil stepmother"- she's just a nice, normal lady who wants her family back together. And she's both kind and firm to Imogene, not that the firmness actually deters Imogene from doing anything, but the point is, she tries.
"She said I was a 'partner in the family', and never treated me like a pain, or the price of marrying Dad, or some pathetic little half orphan."

And despite all this nonsense with Imogene's mom, her stepmom is definitely in it for the long haul. I approve.
Friendship is also big. Jessa is Immy's best friend, and Jessa puts up with a lot of undeserved crap from Immy, because she is just a quality friend, and knows that  Imogene is going through a really tough time. And when Jessa can't help out, she enlists her brother Chad, even though she knows that Imogene has had some feelings for Chad. And then he steps up to the plate to help out. Clearly, they are pretty decent human beings.
Despite Imogene's flaws, or maybe because they were similar to a lot of my own flaws, I related to her. She was so insecure of some things, yet so confident about others. She definitely took her stress out on people who didn't always deserve it, but I think that is a flaw that most of us can openly admit to. And she is stubborn as hell when she thinks she's right, and I have some experience in that particular arena ;)
I felt like a lot of the "life lesson" stuff was really on point. No one was perfect, and everyone was just trying their best. And the revelations that came to pass during the book especially highlighted that point.
The writing was quite good, and I was definitely curious as to what would happen next. I didn't feel bored, and I was genuinely curious about the situation with Imogene's family.

So, of course, there has to be stuff that wasn't really my favorite. 

Some of the events that happened were a bit... farfetched.  I suppose plausible, but not likely. Especially for so many unlikely events. I guess I could have given a pass to one or two, but damn, this girl had incredible luck on her side.
There are some mental health bits in here that I didn't love the handling of. Again, I am not saying that any of it was outlandishly impossible, it's just that Lindy, the stepmom, was a therapist, and yet she didn't seem to take any family member's mental health into consideration. It just felt... weird. And it also felt a little glazed over in general.
Despite the positives that I found while reading the story, I think the main reason I had trouble with the book is that I felt underwhelmed- especially toward the end. When I expected things to pick up and get extra intense, they simply... didn't. And while I never like to tell any specifics about the end of a book, I just felt a bit let down, like I wanted more. And unfortunately, it made the book in general feel quite anticlimactic.

Bottom Line: The writing was solid, and I think this author absolutely has a ton of potential. This wasn't a bad book by any means- in fact, there is a lot I enjoyed about it. Perhaps it was even my expectations of the end being more epic that got the best of me. But I can't deny that I felt disappointment when I was finished, so take that for what it's worth. Still, worth a read for the character/family development alone.
Profile Image for Joce (squibblesreads).
230 reviews4,922 followers
March 5, 2016
3.75 stars

The Mystery of Hollow Places was a (at the risk of sounding hipster) quirky, whimsical mystery. It centers around Imogene and the search for her father who has disappeared. Her father Joshua used to work in forensics and met Imogene's birth mom when she came in to identify the body of her own mother. Imogene's birth mom left them shortly thereafter and her father remarried Lindy, a family counselor. Joshua is now a best-selling author of crime fiction. Imogene herself is passionate about reading as well, particularly mysteries and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I automatically will love books that center around books a little more. SO META BUT SO GOOD.
There's just something about a mystery. You've got this question ratting around your head, so all-consuming that there's hardly room for anything else. [...] But the whole time, you have faith that you'll have your answer by the last page.

As you guys probably know, I am a proponent of diverse characters, especially in YA literature where we see so many protagonists of the dominant discourse. I am happy to say that Imogene is 1/4 Asian and 3/4 Caucasian. Her father is half Asian, half Caucasian but his Chinese background is prominent, and he uses a Cantonese term of endearment with her. Her race was not stereotyped or made into a caricature, and was woven into her identity with a comfortable and confident feel.

Another highlight was its focus on strong friendships, particularly Imogene's friendship with Jessa Price, her best friend and confidante throughout Imogene's quest to find her dad. However, what really grabbed me was Imogene's connection with authors and characters in books, and that she in some way feels a friendship-style connection with them.
But I have better friends, who I know all about - Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, Caroline B. Cooney, Graham Greene. Is it really so weird to feel close to them than anyone else? I can count on them, in the end.

I will say that the mystery was soft, and it never really got too dark or gritty, but instead, the book as a whole was person-centered and focused on how Imogene was consumed by her love for her dad and for her roots, which I really appreciated. It's uncommon in YA to see a protagonist fiercely love a parent so much, and I think this is truly a flaw in YA - that parents are most of the time absentee, and at best, a side dish to the main course.

Imogene appreciates Sherlock Holmes's knack for reading people, and tries to emulate this skill in her own life by putting herself in the shoes of some of the people involved in the mystery. In this way, this book teaches empathy to adolescents, which I highly appreciate.

Overall, I wouldn't say it's the strongest or most gripping mystery, but it was so charming in its approach that I couldn't give it any less than the 3.75 stars I rated it.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
1,143 reviews598 followers
May 3, 2016
The Mystery of Hollow Places is a good book, but not much more than that. In a lot of ways it’s a solid contemporary novel, but completely unremarkable and I honestly doubt I’ll remember it a month from now. I’m not saying it isn’t worth a read, because it definitely is, but I wouldn’t expect to be blown out of the waters.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge that this is a debut! I think sometimes reviewers can forget when they’re reading someone’s first novel. Sometimes I think it is better to be a little less critical when judging a debut.

On that note, congrats to the author for getting her first novel published! While it wasn’t perfect for me, I really enjoyed the writing style, which I found very clean and easy to read. I look forward to reading more from Rebecca Podos in the future.

For someone who enjoys a good contemporary novel this would be a great read. It feels very real, and the characters have complex relationships with one and other. The story deals a bit with depression, and I felt that that aspect was done well.

Our narrator, Imogene Scott, is the daughter of a bestselling medical mystery novelist. Her mother took off when she was two, and fifteen years later her dad takes off as well, leaving Imogene to unravel the clues to find him.

Not sure if anyone else has drawn this conclusion yet, but this book was so freaking similar to Paper Towns. There’s the whole “person goes missing and leaves clues” things, and if you know the ending of Paper Towns, know this book had an ending quite reminiscent.

Another problem I had is that this never felt like a mystery to me. I think when I hear the world “mystery” I expect a bit more drama, and the story just never had that urgent feel that a mystery should. I know we had a lot of tracking people down and such, but I just usually like a mystery to have some sort of action. I’d say this is much more contemporary than anything else.

Overall this book is enjoyable to read. It’s well written, and a very short and quick read. If you’re looking for something lighter to read this may be a good one to pick up! Perhaps if you did not enjoy Paper Towns this may be one to skip, but I do really enjoy Rebecca Podos’ writing and hope to read something else from her soon!
Profile Image for Hannah (jellicoereads).
792 reviews152 followers
December 8, 2015
Now THIS is how you do a YA mystery. It’s not a crime-thriller-murder-type mystery – more of a quieter, but no less fascinating tale of one girl’s search for her missing parents.

You get older, and you make your choices, and one by one the doors shut.

Firstly, the writing is so refreshing and just drew me in. I was scrolling through some of my eARCs, looking for something to catch my attention – and catch it this book did – hook, line and sinker.

Secondly, I adore the practicalities that are outlined in Imogene’s search for her father. She knows that she’s not smarter than the police, or that she’s going to magically find something that they missed – despite her wishful thinking.

I’ve stumbled on a problem that never seems to stop detectives in books: teenage poverty.

The depiction of relationships were also masterfully done. The somewhat tense relationship Immy has with her step-mother, who is trying her best – and the resolution that they find together. The relationship between Immy and her best friend Jessa, which at first appears rather shallow and one of mutual convenience and need, rather than true friendship – but which develops into one of support and companionship, despite their vast personality differences. The crush Immy has on Jessa’s older brother, which doesn’t go anywhere, but is celebrated for what it is – a crush.

A crush is not a contract. I am obligated to do nothing more than feel all my feelings and then close them up and put them back on the shelf, to be taken out and revisited like any familiar story that feels safe precisely because the ending never changes.

Despite the serious subject matter, there’s a wonderful amount of dry, deadpan humour.

Neither of them found a document titled “Where I Am” by Joshua Scott. Nor did they find a roadmap marked with a big red X in his desk drawers.

It’s a novel about longing, and things lost and found – and the way in which mental illness can cause a parent to check out of their duties. It’s about coming to terms with the family that we have and the family that we make.

And it’s surprisingly, unexpectedly, wonderfully profound.

I get closing up your heart because you’re afraid to look inside and find out it’s hollow. I get choosing to be alone because you’re afraid that if the choice is out of your hands, you’ll simply be lonely, and alone is okay, it’s almost cool, in a way. But loneliness isn’t just being alone.


ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jaime Arkin.
1,422 reviews1,325 followers
February 1, 2016
Imogene Scott doesn’t remember much about her mother, other than the stories her father has told her. She left when Imogene was young, so growing up she had only her father who not unlike her mother had issues of his own. Now at the age of seventeen, her father, a famous author who writes medical mysteries, has gone missing. Her stepmother and the police have no clues where he might be but Imogene is convinced that he’s left her clues about how to find him and they all revolve around her mother and their past… the woman she only knows bedtime stories about.

This story is different than I expected… it was less suspenseful and more mysterious. I found myself constantly trying to guess what might happen next, only to find that I was completely wrong.

Podos deftly weaves this story of family, and friendship with amazing writing and some wonderful bits of humor. I loved Imogene’s voice and found it to be completely authentic to that of a teen girl. Her relationships were interesting to traverse… from the strained relationship she has with her step mother, to the convenience of her relationship with Jessa, to the love and dedication she has towards her father… it was wonderful to see them evolve and watch Imogene grow throughout this experience.

The pacing of this is really well done … I found this to be a quick read, mainly because I couldn’t seem to put this down once I had started. I just connected and understood Imogene’s desire to know who her mother was and find the one person left in her life who knew her.

I definitely recommend this for fans of mystery and suspense and if you don’t have this on your to read list, make sure you get it there as soon as possible.

Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,709 reviews701 followers
December 26, 2015
I loved the synopsis to this, so I was eager to get into the mystery. Sadly, it was not even close to what I was expecting.

I liked Imogene well enough. She's smart and quite good at figuring out the most obscure "clues", but she's also kind of an asshole to the people who care about her. Other than Imogene's BFF, Jessa, {who I really liked}, there weren't too many characters we really got to know. Everyone was portrayed as a stepping stone to get Imogene answers.

The reveal wasn't as shocking as I was hoping for. There was a lot of build up and then it just sort of fizzled out. Don't get me wrong, I finished it and something kept me turning pages, yet I'm not entirely sure why I did.

Overall, it was missing the spark I was certain I would see. I'm sure other people will really enjoy the story, but it just wasn't for me.

**Huge thanks to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,639 reviews161 followers
August 10, 2016
I'm really torn on this one.
On one hand, this was a wonderful character driven story. I loved Imogene and just how driven and yet aimless she was. Imogene is struggling. Her dad has just gone missing and she's left with her stepmom. Imogene's mom left when she was little and she's never known her.

But her father left her a clue. A clue to a puzzle that Imogene knows only she can decipher.

I did really like Imogene with all her flaws and insecurities. She was a great character to read about and I loved her friendship with Jessa. I even loved her crush on Chad.

But the story....was slow moving for me. The mystery never really hooked me and I struggled and almost stopped early on. In the end, I'm glad I continued. The writing was great and the end was interesting.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,480 reviews901 followers
January 10, 2016
I really enjoyed this - it's not so much a traditional mystery as one of those books that show you that people and their choices are sometimes the greatest mystery of all. It also had a strong emphasis on family and friendship. I loved the authentic-sounding voice and the fact that main character Imogene is a fan of mysteries -- Rebecca in particular, which seemed to have (sort of) inspired this book. But not in the literal way that most Rebecca retellings choose.
More coherent review to come!

Read more of my reviews on YA Romantics or follow me on Bloglovin

Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!
Profile Image for Emily.
44 reviews2 followers
February 8, 2018
“I throw the car into drive, and once we're moving forward again, I feel tough. Which is exactly what I want to be. Tough means strong. It means even if you're sad - or god forbid, lonely - you won't crumble like a dry granola bar in the bottom of a backpack, destined to spill out over the lap of the first person who fumbles open your foil wrapper. Tough is the opposite of troubled waters.”

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