Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton.
Paperback, 336 pages.
Release date: March 10th 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.
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.
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.
OK, I’ll say it. It’s Lauren Oliver. The writing is beautiful. Absolutely flawless. I bow down.
It’s no secret: I love how Lauren Oliver uses words and yet, I’ve never fallen head over heels for any of her books. Sure, I’ve liked some of them well enough (I thought the whole concept of the Delirium trilogy was pretty cool) but I’ve never totally fallen in love with Oliver’s stories or characters, and I feel like I should when the words are so good.
Of the Lauren Oliver books I’ve read, Vanishing Girls is my favourite to date, and yet – I didn’t fall in love with this one either. What will it take for me to fall in love with a book from this author, you ask? Well, I have a few ideas.
Vanishing Girls is all about sisters; specifically Nick and Dara, two sisters, one year apart – Nick (Nicole) is the elder and as such she is the responsible sister, the one who is practically perfect in every way (at least according to Dara). Nick doesn’t mess up, she doesn’t stay out late (or all night) and she most certainly doesn’t do drugs. Wild child Dara does all of the above –and more. But different as they are, Nick and Dara have always been close. Yes, like sisters do, they fight and they squabble about all kinds of everything and sometimes nothing at all, but at the end of the day Nick and Dara are best friends forever, sister soulmates, if you will.
Until, that is, a terrible car accident – in which Nick was driving – leaves former party girl Dara terribly scarred, holed up in her attic room all summer living like a recluse, albeit one who still sneaks out at night. The accident may have driven a wedge between the sisters, but so too did their shared interest in boy-next-door Parker, Nick’s childhood best friend, who Dara steals away – just because she can? Or maybe because she’s really into him? In any case, Dara wants what Nick has – and you know when there’s a guy involved, that will cause all sorts of trouble. Ah, boys.
So, when we meet Nick and Dara they are not talking; but they are co-narrators of this tale, so we are privy to both of their innermost thoughts and feelings. Nick emerged physically unscathed from the accident, and she’s moving on with her life, scoring a job at an amusement park where Parker just happens to be working too. Nick and Parker reconnect. It’s cute. In the background of Nick and Dara’s lives are their recently separated parents, and also a missing persons case – that of nine year old Madeline Snow – a news story that consumes the local community as a whole. Nick is determined to reconnect with her sister, but Dara, angry and bitter since the accident, is just not interested, and maintains her distance. However, when Dara doesn’t show up to her own special birthday dinner, Nick is sure that it’s more than just a no-show from Dara. In fact, she’s convinced that Dara’s no-show is somehow linked to the disappearance of Madeline Snow. How she comes to this conclusion, I’m not quite sure, but let’s just go with it. Because when she begins her hunt for her sister, what Nick stumbles upon is intriguing indeed.
Vanishing Girls is an absorbing page-turner, for sure, and the relationship between the sisters is perfectly written and rings very true. While this book is being marketed as a psychological thriller, for me it was more issue-laden contemp with a smattering of coming-of-age sweetness, and some third-act thrills. Think the missing person’s mystery of The Killing with a little of the amusement park fun of Adventureland, for this one. As the story gets deeper and darker, fans of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me might spot a little familiar something in these pages too. As for the twist in this tale, well, I won’t say I didn’t see it coming: I did – right from the start. Damn. That said, I second-guessed myself a few times, and in that sense Vanishing Girls is certainly a thought-provoking, compelling read, even if it reads a little far-fetched at times, even if it’s nothing I haven’t read before, and even if all the myriad plot-strands don’t exactly tie together in a neat little bow.
Despite these quibbles I enjoyed Vanishing Girls – and it’s really made me want to check out Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver’s debut, which seems to be her most universally loved book (I know – I can’t believe I haven’t read that one yet!) I love this author’s writing style, and I’m determined to find a book of hers that wows me completely.
In the meantime, Vanishing Girls is well worth a read.