Monday, 9 March 2015

Book Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.

Product details:
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton.
Paperback, 336 pages.
Release date: March 10th 2015.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
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.


  1. So glad you loved this one! I've been eyeing it up. Definitely read Before I Fall! It is just wonderful, so many feels. I read it before I blogged but would love to do a reread and try to attempt a review!

  2. ChristinaBookAddict9 March 2015 at 12:38

    We reviewed this book on the same day! Book twins! Anyway, I felt the same way about this book. I thought it was beautifully written (as usual for Lauren Oliver!) but the plot pieces didn't all mesh at times. I also thought the romance was sort of lacking. Also, I thought that E. Lockhart did the plot twist a bit better, but it was still an entertaining read. I think you should read Before I Fall!! Great review, Leanna!

  3. Don't worry I haven't read Before I Fall yet either, I've had a copy for the longest time too. I don't know why I hadn't paid more attention to this book before, it sounds absolutely thrilling, also I do love books which deal with the relationship of sisters. Lovely review, I shall certainly have to check this book out soon!

  4. Alhana Khobeir9 March 2015 at 22:49

    I really love your detailed explanation of the book. It makes me really want to go out and read it! I'm putting this on my wish list! Thanks so much :)

  5. Vickie Snider Hartwell10 March 2015 at 00:32

    This sounds great!! I am so excited to read it!!!

  6. Before I Fall was the book EVERYONE was talking about just when I started blogging - but somehow I still haven't gotten around to reading it. Must do soon. This one is good!

  7. I kinda feel like everyone is doing this plot twist now so it's becoming easy to spot! Still, I liked this one - I didn't like Panic much at all so this was a big step up!

  8. I thought I was pretty much the only person who still hadn't read Before I Fall! I really need to check it out. I liked this one - and the relationship between the sisters is very well done.

  9. Thanks! Definitely worth checking out. It's my favourite Lauren Oliver to date.

  10. Hmm, I only thought this book was okay. I had issues with the pacing. The synopsis led me to believe it would be primarily about the missing sister. But that didn't happen until more than halfway through the book. The ending kind of blew me away though. I guess I am slow because I did not see it coming.

  11. Please note that Vanishing Girls is a novel originally
    published by HarperCollins, in 2012, by Katia Lief. Some of my readers have
    expressed confusion, since it's the same title and the same publisher, and so I
    am spreading the word.

    "Vanishing Girls is powerful, provocative, and
    pulsating with verve; it also marks an evolution of character and circumstance
    that should serve the series well in future installments. Further, Karin
    Schaeffer is both complex and compelling, and arguably one of the strongest female figures in contemporary crime fiction—and her absolute strength of will is a
    testament to the resilience of the human spirit."
    —John Valeri, Hartford Books Examiner

  12. Yeah - I totally see what you mean. This one was an interesting reading experience for me since I figured out what was going on right at the start - and so I wasn't really expecting a huge missing persons mystery so much. I often totally miss the appeal of Oliver's books - and in the past I've had major issues with pacing in her books - but this one worked for me.


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