Available 12th March 2015 from Hodder & Stoughton
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.
Vanishing Girls is marketed as a Young Adult novel – a genre that, as I have said before, I always feel too old to be reading. So sit down for this one… but I really, really liked it!
Telling the story of 17 year old Nick and her 16 year old sister Dara; who were once inseparable but since Dara started up a romance with Nick’s lifelong best friend Parker, and since the sisters were both in a car accident a couple of months back, their sisterly bond has become strained to say the least. Now, their parents have divorced, mum is severely depressed, Dara and her best friend Ari barely know eachother anymore, Parker can barely look at Nick, both girls feel the stares and whispers of the town and neither can bare to be in the same room as the other.
I was immediately drawn into Oliver’s storytelling; flitting between Nick and Dara’s views, and between before and after the car accident, I found myself being drawn into all the complexities of this sibling relationship, and enticed by the mysteries surrounding the girls. What actually happened the night of the accident? Nick cannot remember. What happened the night of the founders ball? Nick wont tell us. Where does Dara keep disappearing to? And what can any of it possibly have to do with the disappearance of 9-year-old local girl, Madeline Snow?
Now, there was a great twist to this story. Of course I saw it coming before the reveal, because I think it is a plot twist that I have come across a good few times now. However, I didn’t see it coming too early on, and in hindsight it was glaringly obvious, but I think I was just so absorbed in the relationship of the sisters, and Parker’s place in the triangle, and the whereabouts of young Madeline, that I didn’t give it too much thought. There was no specific clue that clinched it for me, it just sort of came to me out of the blue, and as soon as it did I knew that that was the twist to expect. And yes, that was a bit of a dampener for me, but it didn’t in any way detract from the brilliant depiction of the love-hate relationship between sisters and how striving for individuality can often only further highlight similarities.
So I have found a Young Adult novel that I really enjoyed. A fact much more shocking than the plot twist itself! And I can only put this down to Oliver’s talents for delving into human relationships – no matter at what age. I have a sister myself, and when we were younger she was just as often my worst enemy as she was my best friend – and it really is a lot more complex than ‘oh that’s just how sisters are’, and Oliver captures this beautifully.
Also, I really liked both Nick and Dara, and they actually came across as a lot more emotionally mature than the protagonists I’ve read of in other YA works – whilst still being very true to their age (and not your 30-something Dawson Creek style uber-mature ‘teenager’). So I think it is a case of either being able to imagine the characters as closer to my age because of that maturity, or being able to relate so much to the authenticity of the relationship that it takes me back to my own teenage years. Either way I didn’t feel ancient reading this, and that’s always a huge bonus!
Overall this was a very compelling and emotionally loaded read, and those that aren’t familiar with this particular kind of plot twist are in for a real treat.
My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.