This book was really interesting, and it was the first book in ages that I've read and actually not wanted to put down. The characters were interesting and had such depth, and the story was twisted and very confusing at times, which is just the way I like my psych thrillers.
You can check it out on goodreads here, and the synopsis is below:
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.
I really liked this book. I found it edgy and emotional, and a constant rollercoaster of emotion. I don't think it deserves the 3.6 average on goodreads at all.
If you read a lot of psych thrillers, however, you quite possibly will not be as shocked at the plot and the resolution as someone who's new to them... If you've never read a psych thriller, I would highly recommend starting with Vanishing Girls, it's a great introduction to the genre and will most likely get you hooked on this style.
So if you haven't read Vanishing Girls and you'd like to, go get yourself a copy, read it, and come back here to discuss!
***SPOILERS*** (LIKE MAJOR SPOILERS THIS TIME... IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK AND WANT TO ENJOY IT AT ALL PLS DON'T SCROLL DOWN! THERE ARE ALSO SPOILERS FOR WE WERE LIARS BY E. LOCKHART SO BEWARE OF THAT TOO)
Where to start? This book was so intricately created, and despite being a huge fan of psychological thrillers I didn't see the twist... But I'll get to that later.
This book is not really all that original, plot wise. We read books like We Were Liars and Mara Dyer, which have similar themes, similar twists and similar issues for the main characters. The reason I enjoyed Vanishing Girls so much, is not just because I am a complete sucker for psych thrillers and this storyline, but because of the characters and the writing. Lauren Oliver is truly an artist with her words, and I am constantly marveling at the way she writes, and the way she manages to weave the beautiful language she does into an angsty YA. For example, the following quotes:
“Sometimes people stop loving you. And that's the kind of darkness that never gets fixed, no matter how many moons rise again, filling the sky with a weak approximation of light.”
“I guess that's the really nice thing about disappearing: the part where people look for you and beg you to come home.”
“This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances. Don't ask me how. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister”
That last quote also highlights another of my favourite aspects of this story — the relationship between Dara and Nick. As the eldest of three girls, I can understand and relate quite intensely to books that portray sister relationships well (like Isla And The Happily Ever After). I of all people understand how complicated and intense relationships between sisters can be, and I feel like Dara and Nick's dynamic was really interesting. I loved that they were best friends, that they had quite a good relationship before the accident. I feel like, in YA, we see a lot of tense relationships, especially between sisters (like in The Protected, the book that won CBCA Award for 2015) which are good and fun to explore, but it was nice to see sisters who have a deep, complex relationship, that is not perfect, that is flawed, but is so much deeper than any other friendship could be. It was also incredibly sad to see that, in Nick's hallucinations of Dara, Dara hated her. I didn't think about this until after I finished the book, because I didn't guess the twist, but it's heartbreaking to think that Nick thought Dara would hate her that much. It just adds even deeper meaning and intricacy to this beautiful, sad, complex relationship.
A thing that kind of caught me with this book was the timeline. The jumping back and forth was effective, but it was hard to follow at times. The book needed the time jumps, but it was sometimes had to distinguish whether I was reading a before or after chapter, and I often had to skip back to check. I feel like I would've liked a little bit more material from before the accident, just because I would really have liked to see the relationship between Dara and Nick in action.
Then we have the whole Parker issue. This made me feel a little icky, not only because Parker was so flip-floppy in his feelings for Dara/Nick, and I couldn't really figure him out. It also made me uneasy, because I hate the whole two-girls-fighting-over-one-boy trope, especially with sisters. However, Lauren Oliver did it in a way that wasn't at all horrific, and it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. In fact, I think it definitely helped build on the relationship between the two. I just didn't care all that much who Parker ended up with, and I probably would prefer him with neither of them.
The twist. HEY GUESS WHAT DARA'S ACTUALLY DEAD!!! I mean, this is such a popular plot resolution, I probably should have guessed it. But, I really just did not even think of it. I was too busy hoping that Dara was okay, that she'd be rescued, to even comprehend it. I've seen some people call it a "cop-out" story ending, and although I agree with that in some ways, I don't think its entirely true. Yes, it is an easy way to end a story, but as a writer, you cannot write an ending like that on a whim. Building a convincing story around a plot twist like that is not easy, and I congratulate authors like Oliver and E. Lockhart for executing it in a way that an avid psych thriller reader and book reviewer like myself could not guess. I do think it's an easier way to resolve a novel than writing an actual avenging/rescuing/reunion scene, but it can much more emotional and compelling, especially if it really is unexpected. The way Oliver managed to build the story around something like this was really quite incredible, and extremely hard to pick.
We Were Liars has a similar twist, and I didn't guess it in that book, either. However, it was the first time I'd read a book like that, and I feel like Vanishing Girls was much more subtle. I liked both books and their twists, but they were executed quite differently, and thinking about them in contrast with on another, I feel like it may be slightly easier to pick We Were Liars.
Just because the twist is slightly over-used and arguably predictable for some, doesn't mean it didn't hurt my heart. I really liked Dara, and to think she was dead was extremely sad. I was really hoping for a scene where she and Nick could make up and start to rebuild their relationship from the ground again. It certainly got the desired emotional reaction from me.
So how did you feel about Vanishing Girls? I find it to be a rather divisive book, and there are a ton of different opinions out there, so I'd love to know yours! We can discuss in the comments, on my twitter, my tumblr, or you could even send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to contact me about my book, business or just to say hi, feel free to contact me via any of the above mediums! You can also friend me on goodreads or like my facebook page to keep up to date with what I'm reading and when I post.
Have a wonderful week, and I'll see you soon with another post!