Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: Vanishing Girls

Book Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver 

Goodreads Description:  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.

My Review:  I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of Vanishing Girls and could not be more grateful for my chance to take a peak early. That said, my review is entirely my honest opinion.

Cracking open Vanishing Girls, I was enthralled from the start mostly due to the focus in on character and the mystery woven into the opening chapters. The story focuses on two sisters and how a car accident completely alters their relationship. Though the back cover tries to pitch the book as a darker and more plot-driven thriller, the story actually very much focuses on the relationship and development of the characters. Lauren Oliver really wanted you to know these girls, and they succeed in popping off the page and being real life people that I could see myself befriending. Dara, of course, is a vibrant character in the sense that she's a rebel without a cause and manages to be larger than life, even just in the way she takes control and does her own thing. Nick, on the other hand, can come off a bit of a plain, everyday kind of YA character, but through Dara's POV we see the cracks in her demeanor. Nick takes for granted that she's the older sister and often doesn't see how her actions or feelings can leave Dara feeling like the third wheel. It sets up a delightful shift where Dara tries to take control which causes more trouble between the two of them.

The characters were very real, and the rest of the story itself feels real in the way it doesn't shy away from things like sex offenders, underage girls lured into porn/prostitution/etc, drug use, drunk driving, etc. This book would definitely be qualified as 'edgy' and yet because of that feels more authentic. It doesn't shy away from the gritty or real, which can give a lot of kids something to relate to. After all, (and I'll repeat it until my face turns blue), there are teens going through these very struggles, and sometimes they need to see how others handle it and make it through. It's nice how it shows how teens can get dragged down the rabbit hole without setting out looking for Wonderland.

Though the tension and mystery is very nice in this book, it does take a bit before the story gets into the really juicy parts. Because it isn't plot driven, it can be hard to keep the tension high while building up everything else that is needed. There are bits of mystery to keep you interested, but the real delight was coming to the end and the twist. I had the twist figured out about mid-way through, and though it could be kind of obvious to some people, I found it satisfying. Not to mention the secondary part of the plot (What happened to Madeline Snow) keeps you in the dark enough that it doesn't feel like everything in this book is horribly obvious. There were definite parts where I wondered whether the two plot lines would actually come together (The accident + Madeline Snow), and though by the end I could find nothing to complain about, the Snow subplot only seemed to buff up the relationship plot and didn't do much to really wow me, aside from keep me guessing as to how it would turn out.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book for how it made me feel. There were a lot of poignant points in this book and a lot of truths hidden in the pages. By the end I was crying, because I really loved the characters. They were by no means, "These characters are so badass, they're my heroes," and more, "These characters are so wonderful because they're real, because I could find them in any of my friends."

TL;DR: 4/5 stars. Made me ball. Intense relationship thriller with very realistic characters. Don't miss if you're a contemporary lover.

1 comment:

  1. 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