Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver: Frodo’s Review
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
There are books that you fall in love with because of the world, the author’s creativity, or the relationships that are forged both inside of the story and between you and the characters within. Then there are books that you connect with because they feel like yours, stories that seem like the author’s intended audience was you and you alone. The latter was my experience with Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, and it made me both love the book, and reflect a lot on my life. With that said, I clearly have a bias here, but if you don’t mind then read on.
First, I should expand on my connection with the story of Vanishing Girls. This is the first blog post since October 2014, and there is good reason for that. On January 11th of this year I attempted suicide, and my mode of choice was to crash my vehicle into a tree at high speed. I hadn’t felt like blogging again until reading this book, and while Nick and Dara weren’t involved in the car accident because of a suicide attempt, the results were similar.
Scars, both emotional and physical. Major life changes in behavior, friendships, and overall lifestyle. Overwhelming guilt.
Now that you have an idea of why I connected with the story and characters so much (if you want more on my life just hit me up via Twitter and such) let’s get into the review.
Lauren Oliver’s writing is as wonderful as ever. I became a fan of hers after reading Liesl & Po, an adorable MG read, and Vanishing Girls is even better. The story flows extremely well, despite the confusion of the characters within, and transitioning between the POV of the sisters is seamless. Everything concerning the sisters, the accident, their warped family and relationships was fascinating, with just enough edge to keep it from becoming too sappy. However, I will admit that while I understand why the hunt for Madeline Snow was included (spoilers!) it did feel forced, and her character never really adds much to the book.
The characters are what makes or breaks this book in my opinion. You have to feel for Dara and her physical injuries, struggles to return to her usual self, and her black sheep role in her discombobulated family. There needs to be sympathy for Nick’s guilt and emotional struggles over the crash, her frayed relationship with Dara when they were so close before, and her drive to find out the truth to fill the gaps in her memory and the resulting world around her.
Vanishing Girls utilizes the sisters so well, equally showing off the issues and negativity between them after the accident (the usual way sisters are represented in YA), and the positively cute development of their close friendship prior to it (something rare in YA). There should be more books that have sisters who actually like each other in YA, that are also main characters, at least in my opinion. It’s a relationship that doesn’t seem to be tapped enough.
There is also the trio of friends/relationships dynamic with Nick, Dara, and their best friend Parker. All three were really good friends growing up until Dara and Parker became a bit more. That played a major role in Nick and Parker’s relationship, as well as Dara and Nick’s due to Nick feeling like a third wheel. It’s awkward, and the book doesn’t try to hide that, instead exploring each pairing (as well as the atmosphere when all three are together) with plenty of love and care.
In addition, Vanishing Girls explores all kinds of issues, something I really applaud Oliver for, and a big reason why I think the book is worth the read for any teen or young adult. Divorce, step parents and siblings, PTSD, depression, guilt, DID, drinking, drugs, and a plethora of other issues are explored and in just the right amount of detail. Best of all, Oliver manages to do all of that without saying anything that might trigger problems for those suffering from or dealing with those same issues. There is an art in doing that, and I really appreciated that she pulled it off.
Finally, the setting does a lot of the work in the fun department, making lighter situations to balance the deeper parts of the book. Nick is forced into a job at the local amusement park FanLand. It’s old, the employees are bizarre as one would expect, and best of all Parker is there for all the nostalgic feels. FanLand is a diversion from all the shitty things happening to Nick, and it’s one that she and the reader need every so often, plus metaphors, so many metaphors. I loved how Oliver brought it to life.
Overall Vanishing Girls was an excellent read, even if it was pretty dark at times, and while my bias is real, I don’t think it is clouding my judgement. I loved this book so much that it made me blog again. I HAD to share my thoughts on it, and a book that powerful is worth reading. Yes, I’m late to the party (the book came out in March), but hopefully I’m only fashionably so. It’s been fun. Thanks as always for reading.