Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Review of Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. March, 2015. HarperCollins. 368 pages.  Age - Teen to adult.  Review copy from local library.

Sisters Dara and Nicole have always been nearly inseparable, with such a close bond they almost seem like twins, though Nick is older by 11 months.  Dara is the wild-child party girl, always the center of attention, and Nick is the more reserved and responsible one.  Nick excels at being ordinary and has always felt out-shined by her sister, while Dara feels that Nick is the "good one," the "smart one" and therefore casts herself in the bad girl role. Then there is Parker, the boy next door, who has been their best friend since childhood.  As long as Nick can remember, it has been the three of them.  But now that they are teens those bonds begin to be tested and strained.

First, Dara and Nick's family is broken when their father decides to move out, divorce their mother, and become involved with another woman.  Then, without warning, Nick discovers that her sister and Parker have suddenly become a couple, leaving her feeling excluded, jealous, and confused.  Then one night, everything falls apart when the sisters are involved in a terrible car accident while Nick is driving, leaving both of them broken and scarred, though Nick's scars are mostly emotional.  The sisters have not spoken since the accident.  Can Nick and Dara work through the guilt, jealousy, and resentment?

In the meantime, a 9-year old girl goes missing, and several days later, Dara cannot be found, either.  As Nicole tries to figure out what game Dara is playing and goes through her journal and phone, she finds lewd photos of Dara sent from an unfamiliar number and begins to suspect Dara was mixed up in something sinister, and that the disappearances of the two girls are linked.  Will Nick be able to find her sister and mend their relationship?  Can she and Parker ever be best friends again?

My Thoughts
This multi-layered and compelling story accurately portrays the complicated relationship that siblings, especially sisters, can have.  The author does a good job of drawing the reader in by revealing in turn each sister's most intimate thoughts and feelings, and adding in the drama of a love triangle and mystery of the young girl's disappearance.  Also included are snippets from news reports, police reports, and e-mails between Dara and Nick's therapist and their parents, as well as some photographs.

This story had elements of drama, mystery and psychological suspense, and was a compelling read with a plot twist I did not see coming at all.  It deals with love, friendship, jealousy, guilt, grief, and dysfunction.  I would recommend this to a teen or adult who enjoys realistic fiction that is compelling and dramatic, with deep relationship issues and emotional journeys told in an intricate plot line.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is also a multi-layered, non-linear emotional story with similar elements of guilt, blame, love, and family conflict and also involves a serious accident and a dramatic plot twist.

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin also has a compelling story with mystery, secrets, and plot twists told from multiple points of view.

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