Saturday, June 27, 2015

[Review] Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 10/03/2015
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 368
Source: For review
Genre: YA (16+) - Contemporary

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity

Book Tunes
Mr Probz - Waves

My Rating: 

Intense, captivating

My thoughts

I can say with absolute certainty that I have said this in the past but I have no reservations against repeatedly saying it for ever-- Lauren Oliver can do no wrong. I went into this book expecting something akin to a Gone Girl for teen readers/audience, and in a way I was sort of right. Reading this new book that had been written by one of my more favoured contemporary authors I was struck with something like déjà vu--of the best kind. Because, like Gone Girl, Vanishing Girls surprised me, captivated me, provoked me to think about issues and topics that hadn't previously been on my mind. It is bold. It is a lyrical masterpiece in the young adult genre (as are all of her other novels). It is relateable and remarkably human and beautifully disastrous and just a book of the best kind.

In Vanishing Girls, sisters Dara and Nick were inseparable until the accident that tore them apart. Now Dara has a permanent reminder by the scars on her face, thus ending her popularity. Then, on her birthday, she disappears. Around the same time another young girl, Madeline Snow, has been reported missing and it is all over the news. Nick believes that there may be a connection between the two disappearances and she is going to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of it, no matter what.

Note: Now I'm going to start off by saying that it's been about half a year since I've posted on the blog. I've been struggling to find motivation for the longest time and I bear so much guilt--to the many book publishers and their beautiful publicists who graciously send me copies of their books for review, only for me to let them down with my absence. Most of the books I receive aren't preceded by an email alerting me about the book, or asking me if I wish to receive this or that book in hopes that a review will be produced by me. But that doesn't relinquish me from my guilt. Looking at the boundless amounts of books I have yet to read on my shelves I doubt this guilt will ever completely go away either. But I'll endeavour to post my reviews on a more timely basis in the future (I finished this book in April!). Now that that's out of the way...

Nick is the all-around good girl, according to Dara. After the accident Nick is forced into a summer job over at their local amusement park FanLand, which she actually grows to enjoy. First off, Parker (who used to be her best friend until he started messing around with her sister) also works there... maybe it's possible they can patch things up and become friends again. It's lovely to see relationships form and develop at a workplace environment. We get to know a bit about some of the other people who work at the amusement park, only glimpses, mind you, but just enough to prompt you to think.

This is the first time I'd ever read a book where the protagonist works at an amusement park. I found it to be very refreshing and interesting (especially as I have not, nor will I ever have the opportunity to work at one myself). It's only until you step back and look at the big picture do you realise that this time is very important to Nick's character development. Especially the end where Alice talks about the amusement park and why she is so invested in it, it's really quite beautiful.

Vanishing Girl is, at its heart, about sisters. They're complicated relationships. Dara and Nick were once close, then Dara starts sneaking off and is never home, and then after the accident.... Their relationship becomes a series of unreplied messages, silences and disappearances. Nick would do anything to have things back to the way they were.. and when Dara actually goes missing... well, maybe it's a cry for help, maybe she's in trouble, and just maybe there's a connection to the Madeline Snow case and only she can get to the bottom of it.

I absolutely love reading stories about sisters. I feel connected with them, maybe because I have a sister of my own and I find myself relating with the situations they're involved in, the relationships that they have. I never like getting too personal with my reviews but Vanishing Girls is doubly meaningful to me because I used to be quite close to my sister and now that we're older things have become incredibly strained. There was always that level of nurturing with an undercurrent of competitiveness that has led to resentment and jealousy. Just like in Vanishing Girls, the distance between us is almost palpable and, at least on my end, painful at times. Anyway, Oliver handles the delicate nature of sisterhood well, and I can say that at least for me it resonated on a deep and meaningful level because it felt real and true.

There's also the topic of family in general. Their family becomes a broken shell of what it once was. The parents divorce marks the beginning of the rift that forms between the two sisters. I can believe the way the sister dynamic has changed after the split-- Dara goes into party mode while Nick becomes the diplomatic disciplinarian. I haven't seen divorce nearly as much in my reading travels, and I hope to read more in the future because it is a contemporary teen issue that really has a lasting impact.

The writing style is flawless. This is Lauren Oliver we're talking about. 'Nuff said.

There is a bit of romance. And I found it to be tremendously, heart-achingly sweet. I'm quite the sucker for a good old, slow development, with conflict and small moments that matter, that make you believe the attraction goes far deeper than the physical. 

I can honestly say that I did not expect the ending, unlike many other reviewers on Goodreads it seems. I normally just read a book, totally absorbed in its world and the emotions and the characters that I don't pick up on hints as to how the story will end. Some readers have complained that they could see the twist from miles away. I admit I was very slow on the uptake, and once I did come to that revelation it hit me hard. I actually really liked the direction in which Oliver took the story, found it fitting and poignant and essentially Oliver-esque. The meaning behind the narrative has changed, our viewpoint on Nick has changed and it just brings you to see things from another angle and reevaluate everything that you had learned from the beginning. From what I can gather, as long as you're not a rabid reader of psychological thrillers you shouldn't be too disappointed by the ending.


First line: "Want to play?"


"Weird how you can confuse two feelings so different. Cold and hot.
Pain and love.
But I guess that's the whojle point, isn't it? Maybe that's why I kept thinking about that time with the lighter. Here's what nobody tells you: 90 percent of the time, when you fall in love, somebody gets burned.

"I jump back, yelping, as the water is abruptly illuminated from below in crazy rainbow shades: neon oranges and yellows and purples and blues, shifting Technicolor strata. A wave gathers on the far side of the pool and works its way slowly toward me, causing all the colors to bend and break and re-form. I back up as the wave breaks at my feet, scattering into shades of pink.
     "See? Told you it was worth it." Parker reemerges, jogging, silhouetted against the crazy light display.
     "You win," I say. I've never seen the wave pool lit up like this; I didn't even know it could be. Fingers of light, shimmering and translucent, extend up toward the sky, and I have a sudden, soaring sense of happiness--like I, too, am nothing but light.

And of course the last chapter.. because it's beautiful and just perfect. But of course I can't share that here. :)


AUSTRALIA: Booktopia

INTERNATIONAL: Book Depository 

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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