ARC Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren OliverVanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Published by Harper Collins on March 10th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Siblings, Young Adult
Pages: 368

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver delivers a gripping story about two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident.

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.

*Thank you to my OTSP Secret Sister for this ARC!* This in no way affected my honest review.

Spirituality in Vanishing Girls:

The bonds with our siblings can be incredibly strong, and Oliver explores the strength of this bond with the relationship between sisters Nick and Dara. Not only are they sisters, but we discover in the first chapter, they’re also best friends. It seems fitting that the books features diary entries from Dara and switches back and forth between the girls’ perspectives, even providing flashbacks. This seems to suggest help for the reader to puzzle together what happened between Nick and Dara, but it also gives us deeper insight into the perspectives of both sisters. The switching between perspectives made me feel as if I was getting to know both Nick and Dara, as opposed to just Nick, but at the same time, I wondered how reliable our narrator was. I knew a terrible accident had taken place, and that the book often flashed back before the accident to both sisters’ perspectives. However, the exact nature of that accident is hidden from the reader, so the withholding of details added to the story’s suspense.

The story illuminates how a tragic event can affect a family in far reaching ways—so much so that the unit is forever changed after the event, no matter how much time passes. We may have strong relationships, but there are forces and events that take place that shock and surprise those relationships, changing what we thought would remain solid and constant. That’s another theme Oliver explores in the book, and I think it provides good ground for discussion concerning how much of our identity is shaped by our family, and what it means when that begins to change.

Further Thoughts & Who Should Read This Book:

There are certain aspects of the ending that really bothered other readers, and obviously I’m not going to spoil it here by revealing those aspects. Suffice it to say that this book did remind me, in some ways, View Spoiler » After the big reveal, I did think that there weren’t enough hints earlier on to lead up to the resolution, but I could understand why the author chose to go this route. My mind was spinning, trying to piece together what I had just read, combing the pages for clues, but I decided not to go for a re-read just yet. This is the kind of book that I most likely will re-read, in light of its ending. At the same time, I can solidly say that I enjoyed the book, resolution aside.

If you like a mystery that keeps you guessing (Where exactly did Madeleine Snow disappear to?) and you enjoy multiple points of view in a YA, you’ll probably want to give Vanishing Girls a chance. But be warned, because the plot twist could be hard to swallow. However, if you’re a fan of Oliver’s writing, I would suggest you give this one a try. The inclusion of texts and online news reports makes the narrative even more interesting.

I love Oliver’s language and imagery–that alone will always be enough to get me to read her books. She has this wonderful way of effectively placing me right in the middle of a scene with vivid imagery, whether it’s a shift in Nick’s job working at Funland, complete with all the sights and smells of a carnival, or that moment at the end of the day when the crickets begin to sing. She captures the spirit of what it feels like after a breakup and the difficulty of having a sister who just isn’t there for you the way she used to be.

“Sometimes people stop loving you. And that’s the kind of darkness that never gets fixed, no matter how many moons rise again, filling the sky with a weak approximation of light.”

The Final Illumination:

Plot twist aside, I enjoyed this book immensely and was kept up late turning the pages. I also often find that the themes Oliver explores are spiritually rich and thought-provoking. Though she may not intend her books to reflect spiritual dimensions, I think there’s enough there (when thinking about spirituality in a broad way) to warrant discussion that leads (me at least) into deep and meaningful conversations.

Though there are mixed reviews on this one (see Goodreads), I can say that I solidly enjoyed it, in spite of being a little suspicious of the conclusion, and the way things were wrapped up. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll definitely re-read this later on, and revisit my initial thoughts.

What about you? What did you think of Vanishing Girls? Was it all you hoped it would be?


What Katie Read