I’m a huge fan of Lauren Oliver, so I was really excited to read Vanishing Girls. Also, nervous, because let’s face it - it’s not unheard of for favourite authors to churn out a duff book, or randomly decide to head in a different direction.
Happily, this was not the case with Vanishing Girls. It may not have had the open-mouthed, turn-right-back-to-the-beginning-and-read-it-again thrill of Before I Fall, or Delirium, but it was still a jolly good read.
The plot revolves around two sisters - Dara and Nick and flits between the events running up to a car accident they were in and the summer after the car accident where they are trying to get their lives back together. Prior to the car accident, they were as close as two sisters could be, but now they’re not speaking. Throw a boy into the mix (yup, Love Triangle Alert) then you’ve got a sibling relationship that’s turning toxic.
The main thing that drove this book for me was the characterisation. The two MCs - Dara and Nick - were so well-formed it made a book with an okay plot into something really special. There’s something about Lauren Oliver’s writing that paints such a vivid picture of her characters using barely any words at all. I remember her managing the same feat with some of her previous books and I really think it’s the sign of a great writer. Contrast this with some other authors who, okay, manage to paint a picture of their characters but use pages and pages of description to do so.
I really invested in the relationship between Dara and Nick. Although they obviously love each other dearly, there are also some fairly serious strands of jealousy and resentment woven through their relationship which just rang so true for me. Their relationship has evolved from one of simple love and friendship to one where their love is almost buried beneath tension, jealousy and competition. Both feel crammed into boxes according to their personalities - Nick is the good girl, whereas Dara is the wild child and although they both play up to these stereotypes, they both resent it.
Their narratives are told through the POVs of both girls, as well as ‘before’ and after’ the accident. The plot dots around quite a lot, especially as other media such as police reports and news blogs are included. It was a bit messy in places and there’s the disappearance of a nine year old local girl thrown into the mix as well, but somehow everything manages to get resolved in the end.
It’s possible to spot the twist (and of course there’s a twist - this is a psychological thriller) a mile off, but it’s still well executed. When the big reveal happens, although I guessed it fairly early on it still made me go back to the beginning and flick through the book again to spot the ways the author had woven it into the plot.
Lauren Oliver isn’t for everyone, but if you liked her previous books then I’d definitely give this one a go.