“That's what life is, pretty much: full of holes and tangles and ways to get stuck. Uncomfortable and itchy. A present you never asked for, never wanted, never chose. A present you're supposed to be excited to wear, day after day, even when you'd rather stay in bed and do nothing.”
So, I had really high expectations for Vanishing Girls, and while it didn't meet all of them, I still really enjoyed it. There is something very...warm and familiar about Oliver's writing so that even though I may not love the story, I love the writing (the same happened when I read Panic and Requiem).
I'm not saying that this is a bad book. By all means, it isn't. There are so many wonderful things here to love. First, Oliver has a very lyrical and musical style in her writing. It makes reading one of her books a joy because you get a bit sucked in by the language. Every once in awhile I stop to mull over her word choices, but I always enjoyed the way she strings things together.
Second, this book had, what I consider to be, the strongest sibling relationship I've seen in quite some time. And I'm not talking about siblings who love and support each other to the ends of the earth, but the real gritty kind of relationship-where there is jealousy and competition and comparison. I found myself totally absorbed in learning the relationship between Dara and Nicole. Both are resentful of the other, but will barely admit it to themselves, let alone each other. That competition and jealousy fuels a lot of the action in the novel.
As I was reading about Nick being jealous of Dara, or vice versa, I was reminded of my own relationship with my siblings. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. I'm closer in age to my brothers than my sister, so we were closer in school and other things that brought about a lot of silent competition in our house. Both of my brothers are incredibly intelligent, particularly in math and science. They were also very athletic growing up, where I struggled in team sports (I danced through the ninth grade, but I also played softball). Once the 3 of us were all in high school (as a senior, junior, and freshman), there WAS competition between us. They excelled in different areas than I did, so it did create a lot of resentment and jealousy on my part. Thankfully I grew out of that, but I could relate so well to Dara and Nicole.
With my own sister, who is 6 years younger than me, I never had to feel that jealousy. I don't know if she ever felt that towards me, but we were so far removed in age and experiences (I was in college by the time she was in high school) that it never became a problem like is does in Vanishing Girls.
Back to the novel, the story basically follows Nick and Dara through a summer after a horrific car accident. Both girls were injured and had been kept apart by their divorced parents. Most of the book is told from Nick's perspective, as she returns home and tries to rebuild a relationship with Dara, who ignores her sister and hides in her room. As the reader, we follow both girls around town and learn more about their relationship before the accident and after. Their rivalry is uncovered and we begin to piece together what happened.
But then a girl named Madeline Snow disappears, and a few days later, so does Dara. In a panic, Nick begins to search for Dara and pulls the pieces together.
It really is a well done and steady piece of YA, but my one complaint....well, the ending. There is a twist that I won't talk too much about, but I didn't like it and felt like I was taken out of the narrative a bit too much by Oliver. I actually had to stop reading and go back to other passages in the book to verify what I had thought I read (and I was right in my interpretations). It just threw me in a way I didn't like. I am writing this right after finishing, so perhaps my opinion will changes as I let the book simmer for a bit, so I will edit if that happens.
In all, this was a good piece of YA that still makes me want to read more by Oliver (and this was way better than Panic). If you're looking for a bit of a thriller with a very dynamic sibling relationship, this is your book.
“This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances. Don't ask me how. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister”