Sibling rivalry with a twist

Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver (2015)

Opening line: “The funny thing about almost-dying is that afterward everyone expects you to jump on the happy train and take time to chase the butterflies through grassy fields or see rainbows in puddles of oil on the highway.”

Like many sisters who are close in age, Nick and Dara are totally different yet totally inseparable. Nick, the older more level-headed one, is often in the role of keeper of her slightly younger wild-child sis. That is, until the terrible car accident that changed everything. The accident left Dara with awful scars and a rift between the girls. Things were also weird leading up to the accident, though, after Dara started kissing Parker, Nick’s best friend.

It’s summer and Nick has recently returned home after time away after the accident and learns of a recent missing child, Madeline Snow, who disappeared out of the family car. When Dara doesn’t show up to her family birthday dinner, Nick initially thinks she’s just messing around. But then signs seem to point toward connections between Madeline’s disappearance and Dara’s. And despite their recent estrangement, she will do whatever she has to to track her down.

I have to say, I’ve listened to almost all of Lauren Oliver’s novels on audio with the delightful narrator of Sarah Drew (April Kepner of Grey’s, or if you’re more inclined, Hannah Rogers of Everwood), but this one has a whole cast of narrators (none of which include Sarah), and for some reason that threw me. I struggled to get in to this one, partly because of that, partly because the different formats used to tell the story (regular narrative, internet comments, diary entries, emails, chronology jumps) are difficult to translate to audio. I might have picked up on the twist at the end more quickly had I read it in print, but instead wrote it off as confusion. Because there IS a big twist at the end, one that made me wish I had the book to go back and look through for clues. Reviewers have compared it to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (which I thoroughly enjoyed) for this reason.

Not my favorite Oliver novel, but not bad. 1.5 stars.


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