... haunting, mind-bending ... a wrenching portrait of Atlantis and her role in Bonner’s life ... Bonner constructs much of her memoir from Atlantis’s emails, Facebook updates, interviews, Craigslist ads, voice mail messages and song lyrics. This collage captures both Atlantis’s mesmerizing voice and her instability. The Facebook updates — Atlantis is …, Atlantis is … — are incantatory, spellbinding. Bonner’s narrative choice to follow many of these extracts with her reactions as she experienced them in the moment can sometimes be more compelling in conception than in execution ... Bonner’s interjections throughout Atlantis’s searing 'final will and testament' douse much of that document’s fire. But if this strategy frustrates, it also provokes, refusing to supply the aestheticized reflections upon trauma that readers may expect, even crave ... Keeping the reader close to her real-time perspective also allows Bonner to pull off a riveting balancing act in the memoir’s final third, when we find ourselves on increasingly unsteady ground, forced to ask with each new twist: Is this a veritable true-crime investigation? Or is Betsy — and are we — merely 'obsessing over details and typos … doing everything I could to avoid the truth'?
... a haunting, heartbreaking, frustrating read ... offers more plot twists, shocking revelations and shady characters than most contemporary thrillers ... Bonner's voice is strong — her pain, research and need for answers the three constants that drive the book. But Atlantis occupies the core of everything. Betsy Bonner is the storyteller, but Atlantis Black is the story, the mystery, the victim, sometimes the perpetrator and always the question. Bonner presents her sister with love, but also with brutal honesty ... Social media and email enrich and complicate the narrative ... gripping and works on two levels. On the surface, there is the story of two sisters drifting away from each other and then coming back together. It is a story of siblings dealing with an abusive father who dies of cancer and a mother whose struggles with mental illness ended in suicide. Then there are the true crime elements: petty criminals, police reports, strange men who vanished, Atlantis' online life and communications with various men after she posted companionship ads, video surveillance showing a couple whom Atlantis is clearly not half of perpetrating some of the crimes she was charged with, and even the fact that she had dated the DEA agent who arrested her. Taken together, these things offer more questions than answers, and each adds a layer to the mystery of Atlantis' death ... addresses abuse and mental illness within the frame of a suicide that could have been an assisted suicide or a murder. It is a book that denies readers the satisfaction of closure, of a final answer and an explanation. Instead, this true crime and memoir hybrid takes us into the heart and mind of Bonner, the one who was left behind, and through her we experience the pain of not knowing — and the frustration of looking for answers even when the person we try to understand was as mysterious as the fabled land of Atlantis.
... an unflinching, haunting portrait of Black, the bizarre details surrounding her vanishing, and the enduring bonds of sisterhood ... Despite the shifty people Black surrounded herself with and the police reports that never quite add up, most readers will eventually find themselves questioning Bonner’s motives for her assiduous investigation into her sister’s disappearance (or death) ... With her debut memoir, Bonner has written a spellbinding page-turner, a true crime hybrid that will satisfy readers who seek out advanced literary stylings along with readers who want a wildly entertaining, suspenseful tale. Bonner’s background in poetry shows in imagistic flashbacks that illustrate coming-of-age moments and childhood mischiefs that take on a foreboding tone when juxtaposed with the reality of Black as an adult. The only thing I found missing was a deeper exploration of Bonner’s anger toward Black, touched on only briefly ... Of the many interesting narrative choices Bonner makes, my favorite is her choice to include transcribed passages from an interview with Black that was recorded three months before she vanished. The short passages are interspersed between chapters, printed in white font on black pages, to chilling effect.