Book Review: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Vanishing Girls

Written by Lauren Oliver

Narrated by Elizabeth Evans, Saskia Maarleveld, and several others

Published 2015 by HarperCollins

Runtime: 09:39:47

vanishig

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before—before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred. Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren’t speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back.

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too—nine-year-old Madeline Snow—and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

My Review:

I was initially captured by this story because of the relationship between Nick and Dara, sisters and best friends. It reminded me instantly of my own sister and I’s relationship. The stark differences in the two, the similarities, and the way they combined perfectly to make a lasting friendship – I could tell this was the foundation to a good story with solid characters.

Things get complicated when a boy gets involved. Parker, their childhood friend. I’ll admit the love triangle here was a bit awkward. Parker was the sister’s best friend since they were small children and now he’s dating one of them, the other obviously in love with him… it seems so unhealthy. The romance and heartbreak seemed out of place throughout the novel. It did tie in at the end, but in such a small way I thought the whole plot revolving this could have been tighter.

The title of the story is “Vanishing Girls” though, and that’s what the story kept trying to lead up to. The story of Madeline Snow’s disappearance wasn’t subtle to the rest of the plot. It was obvious it was going to tie in, but stayed separate for so long. Regardless, it was compelling to read and the mystery surrounding it was the best part of this story. Things finally started to get intense when Nick caught on the trail of the truth.

After I finished the book I realized that many of the things that annoyed me about the book were set in place for a reason. The story is ultimately about Nick’s healing and coping process. However, her time spent working at Fantasy Land amusement park bored me. Again it played a small part in the conclusion of the novel. Lauren Oliver wove a lot of symbolism into the story though, Fantasy Land included. Again, it wasn’t very subtle, but the writing was clear and engaging.

Finally we get to the twist ending. I might have appreciated it more if I haven’t read so many endings just like it recently. It’s not that its uncreative or even unoriginal, there’s just been so many variations of this already. When I reached the end of the novel, I expected to have this hurting chest, bereft of air, can’t-believe-it moment. I mean, it was good, and I tried not to compare it other novels, but the comparison was just too relevant. With the conclusion of the novel, a lot of things fell into place. I understood small details of the story that I was confused on their placement.  Everything fit together, but still, not very tightly. Some things, such as the relationship with Parker and Fantasy Land, I felt were overworked into the novel to have such small importance in the conclusion.

Overall, the novel was an enjoyable read. I read the audiobook version, which became a bit confusing at times due to the number of narrators. I believe a print version would have been easier to follow. Each narrator, particularly for Dara and Nick, would use voice variations for quotations, which is great narrating. The problem came in when the voices of Nick and Dara were read differently by each narrator, the story just lost its reality. It is more difficult to get lost in a novel when the voices literally change. Also, the return back and forth between the present and the past made it more difficult to follow in the audio version.

2.5 Stars

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver is an entertaining read. The mystery was gripping, and the conclusion brought clarity to the whole story. Despite some loose connections and drawn out scenes, I enjoyed this novel. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars (Audiobook Version)

Written by E. Lockhart

Narrated by: Ariadne Meyers

Published 2014 by Random House

Runtime: 06:26:33

liars

Goodreads Synopsis:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My Review:

I listened to the audiobook version of We Were Liars, narrated by Ariadne Meyers. I really enjoyed this as an audiobook since it was simple to follow and Meyers did a great job with voices.

We Were Liars is a stunning tale of friends who only know each other on the island their wealthy families own. The island is a paradise, and in its description it’s hard not to believe just that. But as the synopsis will suggest, there is ALWAYS trouble in paradise.

The plot was slow to form, but it is clear early on that there is something horrible about the Sinclairs. It’s nothing shocking honestly. The family is filthy rich and battles for inheritance become threat to the threads that hold the family together. But that’s not what this story is about. It was an entertaining part of the novel and in many ways I thought it was going to play a bigger picture in the story. No, this story is about the children. What happens to the kids of a broken, wealthy family?

Drunk on power and the realization of the lack thereof, this novel is a roller-coaster of hope and failure. There is pain that no one talks about and the healing is slow. I was fascinated by the characters in this book. The liars, each beautiful and terrible in their own ways. Not that you can blame them. And then you have the aunts and their constant bickering, and grandad and his dementia. Lockhart creates a family portrait that intrigues readers. All set in the picture-perfect setting of their private island.

Amidst the bickering, there is also romance. I was less impressed with the romance. Of course Lockhart’s teenage love was much more realistic than many other young adult novels.The love felt shallow and constricted although I think we were supposed to believe it was more than that.

As I mentioned above, I thought the novel was a bit slow moving. With a lot of focus on Cadence’s self-pity. It was all worth it in the end when the reader finally understands everything. There is genuine horror in this novel. I was shocked so much that my mind was reeling my entire shift at work. I had the fortunate experience of finishing the book moments before my shift started. It really messed with my head.

I don’t want to give away anything, so all I can say is that I loved the conclusion of this novel. It was a harsh pull back to reality. I highly recommend this book!

4 stars (2)

I give We Were Liars by E. Lockhart a 4 out of 5 stars

Book Review: Anya’s Ghost

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Goodreads Synopsis:

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

AG

 

My Review:

Anya’s Ghost is a story that embraces the many fears of coming of age. Anya, the protagonist, is no extraordinary girl – except when she is. She worries about her weight, getting boys attention, approval from her peers, clothes, nationality, making friends, and understanding familial values. Really, Anya is just an ordinary teenager with some likeable and some rather unlikeable traits. For an unextraodinary girl, something extraordinary happens to her. Anya falls into a well. Yes, a well. And just when things couldn’t get worse, Anya’s hit rock bottom – literally. But maybe the fall was exactly what she needed. In a supernatural turn of events, Anya befriends a ghost. Well, actually, the ghost kind of follows Anya. But Anya’s disdain for her ghostly friend disappears when she realized her new friend’s physical, or rather non-physical form, has its perks.

The problem is that Anya is still a teenager. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a teenager, but she’s just an average-minded girl with the hopes of impressing the student body (and one boy in particular). There’s an even greater problem than Anya’s misguided whims – and its sitting (or floating) right next to her.

This story is a wonderful YA read because it addresses several fears of the average teenager without the overwhelming diction that makes readers aware they are being lectured. It’s just a good story with an edgy, supernatural twist. Readers will understand Anya, and if they don’t relate to her themselves, they probably know someone who would. Anya is the kind of friend we’ve all been, or had as a friend. The fight for attention leads to disappointment and betrayal, which Anya is quick to discover.

Besides Anya’s problems at school, there’s that whole ghost stalker thing she has to worry about. It appears she’s not the only one begging for someone’s affection, but Anya has to be careful or she might be in grave danger. The supernatural twist to the story is sure to engage readers. It is fearsome and fascinating – perfect for the teen or preteen reader.

I give Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol a five out of five stars

 

5 Stars