My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I honestly don’t know how this author comes up with such fantastically brilliant endings. Unfortunately I’m not sure it was quite enough to save this thriller about the relationship between two sisters.
Lauren Oliver’s writing is as always good and she creates some very real and well rounded characters however, I found the story didn’t grip me as much as I hoped it would.
Synopsis (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.
I was very excited when I came across this book in my local library as I fell in love with Lauren Oliver’s writing after reading Before I Fall a few months ago. It was one of those books that started off slow but somehow managed to gradually draw me in so that by the end I was completely enthralled and an emotional basket case.
Consequently when I began reading Vanishing Girls and found it slow going I wasn’t too worried initially. When I hit the halfway point and realised I was still finding it a bit of a hard slog that’s when I became concerned. It’s never a good sign when you start putting off reading and doing all of those other things (housework, going to the gym, sleeping) that you usually sacrifice for a good book. Don’t get me wrong, the writing and characterization is good it just didn’t have that thing that hooks you in and makes you totally addicted.
I think this was largely due to the plot which was pretty slow and my inability to really connect with either of the main characters, Dara or Nick (Nicole). Of the two main characters Nick is probably the more likeable. She’s the one who’s always trying to do the right thing, to protect her sister and keep her out of trouble. I’m totally on board with this type of attitude and behaviour (I’m the sensible and responsible sibling in my family) but it doesn’t make for a particularly fun and exciting read.
Dara on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum, always looking for the next thrill, breaking every rule she can find no matter who gets hurt. This insensitivity and bratty behaviour didn’t exactly endear her to me and if I was Nick I probably would have washed my hands of her a long time ago.
It’s difficult when you don’t like the MCs to be drawn into a book and this wasn’t helped by the slow pace of the story. While the blurb gives the impression this is about the disappearance of one of the sisters, this in fact doesn’t happen until very late on (around the 75% mark). The focus is much more on the relationship between the two and an accident that caused it all to go wrong.
Unfortunately for me I didn’t really feel the emotions I suspect I should have and couldn’t understand why the relationship between the sisters meant so much to them. There seemed to be a lot of arguments, a lot of worry and just a general lack of fun and laughs. I know that this is supposed to be a thriller but I always think the dark is darker when there’s a bit of light.
The story jumps back and forward in time from the months leading up to the accident to the current time. It also flips between Dara’s pov and Nick’s and as well as the main narrative there are journal entries, emails, newspaper articles and photographs. I really liked the use of journals and photos but found it all a bit much, particularly at the start as I got lost a few times and had to back up to figure out who and when.
Given all this I was fully prepared to give it 3 stars and move on. Then came the ending which was like nothing I expected. I’m obviously not going to say too much about it only that it turned a decidedly average read into something that little bit more special.
On the whole therefore, it’s a well written story with an incredible ending but is maybe just that little bit too slow to get there. If you like a story about family relationships I think you’ll enjoy this, just don’t expect an exciting thriller.