Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published Date: 10 March 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

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.
(summary from Goodreads)

A character driven, tension filled novel, Vanishing Girls is hard to put down.

After reading that blurb, I had different expectations of Vanishing Girls, so I admit to being a little thrown once I got into the story. This was not quite the mystery I thought it'd be. Instead Oliver has delved into the nuances of a sibling relationship and dealing with tragedy. It's just as good as I'd originally hoped. The style of Vanishing Girls is spot on. With alternating point of view chapters from Nick and Dara, as well as shifts between now and the time before the accident, Oliver is able to offer bits and pieces, just enough to entice, and push us towards the big reveal. The twist is not the most original and it won't work for everyone. Part way through it hit me exactly what it was, and while at first I felt a tad disappointed, I still went on to really enjoy Vanishing Girls. I actually liked noticing the clues Oliver gives, to be honest. I'd be interested to know if maybe we're meant to figure out the truth before Nick does, because it becomes quite obvious as the novel continues. Personally, I think this adds to the gripping nature of the story - Nick's desperation builds and builds, and waiting for the inevitable moment it all comes to a head is heartracingly tense. Oliver brings all the loose threads together nicely to give a sense of closure, but I did have a moment of "that's it?" at the end. Vanishing Girls is definitely all about the build up. The aftermath? Not so much. 

The brilliance of Vanishing Girls lies in Oliver's characters and their relationships. Nick and Dara are thoroughly well developed and distinct characters. Their differences are so pronounced, from how they act, what they wear, how they see their place in the world, to how they view the accident. Their relationship defines this whole book - once so solid, and now broken. The sibling dynamic really shines. Certain things have more meaning and stronger reactions when it occurs between siblings and Vanishing Girls highlights this. Nick and Dara's relationship provides the emotion of the story, as you wonder desperately what actually happened and hope they can somehow repair not only their bond as sisters but their friendship. At times you will like each sister more than the other. Their edges are definitely catching. And in writing all of this, my awe for Oliver's work only grows. While the secondary characters are nowhere near the focus that Nick and Dara are, they each have their part and add that little extra to the story. Parker especially, caught in the middle as he is. I'm torn between comforting him and slapping him around for not knowing better. Here's a hint, boys - sisters are a no, no. 

While Vanishing Girls may not keep you guessing, Oliver's craftiness is still to be admired. The way it all plays out and works is masterful. There's a wounded quality to this book that stays with you.



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