Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

I bought Vanishing Girls and the watercolors at Brazos Bookstore in Houston. So, if you are ever near Houston, I'd highly recommend stopping in at Brazos!

I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver in May, and I knew immediately that I needed more Lauren Oliver in my life. So, in June I bought Vanishing Girls and it didn’t disappoint! Nick and Dara had a cool sister/frenemy dynamic between them from the start, even without the Parker drama! (But what YA book about teen girls is complete without at least a touch of boy drama? None, I say! It’s the drama we love to hate, especially when you realize you’re 22, married, and WAY too invested in the love lives of 17-year-olds. I digress.)

Along with the character dynamics, I really liked that the POV switched back and forth between Nick and Dara. Dara could have easily been the reckless, daring younger sister and nothing else, but being able to see her softer side helped me connect more with her and, by extension, Nick. I also think the POV switch helped me from siding too much with one character, and because these two were often pitted against each other, that was important.

Now, where I had trouble with the story was the build to the climax. I’m all about a slow burn when it comes to tension in a story, but Vanishing Girls was more of a stubborn flame that refused to light and then suddenly exploded in the second half of the book. The front flap tells us that Dara vanishes, so I assumed she’d, you know, vanish! I know what you’re thinking, “You know what they say about assuming, Mallory,” but the front cover said there’d be a disappearance so excuse me for expecting that to be the main part of the plot! *Calming Breaths.* Once Dara did finally disappear, I literally couldn’t put the book down. I’m not ashamed to say I carried it with me to the restroom on more than one occasion. If you like mysteries and romance and sister drama, then this book is definitely for you. If you don't like those things, then...have you considered non-fiction? I hear computer manuals are mystery free!

This brings me to the ending, which is especially spoilery. If you don’t want the ending to be ruined, then I suggest you stop here.

 

 

Hopefully you’ve come back post-reading Vanishing Girls to see what I thought about the ending you have just read. If you haven’t read the ending yet, then I’m really not sure what you are doing here. I will give you one more chance to not spoil the ending of this book for yourself. Seriously, this is the last chance. Leave. Go. Get out of here.

 

 

So, Vanishing Girls had a twist ending. I’m not sure how you feel about twist endings, but I had a creative writing professor in college who banned them (along with stories about death) from the class because he believed they were used for cheap thrills in place of a well-thought out plot. I don’t think my views are as strong as his, but I did have some deep-rooted emotional issues with the twist. I felt cheated.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the ending. I was super surprised that Dara had been dead the entire time and Lauren Oliver did a really good job of placing clues throughout the story that I looked back at with an “Oh, of course! How could I not have realized that Nick had a mental break and thought she was her sister!” reaction. However, Dara was dead….the ENTIRE TIME, and I didn’t know it. That bothered me. I felt like the character I’d connected to and sympathized with was a lie. We never really knew Dara, except for her diary entries, because everything from her POV was Nick pretending to be Dara! That is like telling someone you are going to make them cookies. You turn on the oven, you set the timer, and you light a cookie-scented candle. Sure, it smells like cookies. Heck, it even looks like you are actually baking cookies. But, alas, when that timer goes off and the oven is opened, that person is left cookieless and you are down one friend. 

In the end, I'm torn. I liked the ending, but I also hated it. I was happy with Nick and Parker, but I was also still sad about Dara. (Because, lets be honest, at this point I was still mourning Dara's death, even though it happened several months beforehand!!) This book did some messed up things to my brain, and I think that might have been the point. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries or psychological teasers (I may have just invented that genre of book). 

Happy Reading,

Mallory

P.S I Still Love You by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han – the sequel to the New York Times Bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – continues the story of Lara Jean Song and Peter Kavinsky’s…uhmm…pretend relationship/crush/break-up/real relationship, and as you can probably tell, it’s complicated. Not only does Lara Jean have to deal with Peter’s clingy ex, but when a boy from her past comes barreling into her life (and her heart!—Yes, I’m that cheesy.) she is forced to reevaluate everything.

First things first, this book is too cute. I read the entire thing in one day—although I did technically have to stay up until 2 AM to finish the job—and it charmed my socks right off! Lara Jean and Peter’s little fights are so sweet. However, I should add that it probably isn’t healthy to bribe your significant other with lemon cookies, regardless of how effective it is. Their romance doesn’t feel forced the way a lot of teen romances can feel, where the guy has perfectly tousled hair in the middle of a hurricane and always knows exactly what to say to make a girl melt. While I’m on the subject of melting, I love that Lara Jean doesn’t melt every time Peter (or anyone else) tries to sweet talk her. She is strong and seems capable to handle things on her own, which is something I admire about her. However, when it comes to admiration, Kitty has earned all of mine! I’d like to adopt her as my own little sister. She’s smart as a whip, she named her dog Jamie Fox-Pickle (hilarious!), and she knows how to get what she wants, whether it’s a dog or a ride in her sister’s boyfriend’s car. So many of the characters felt vibrant and real to me, especially Stormy Sinclair from the retirement community!

Now, as charming and all around heartwarming as PSISLY is, there are still a few problems for me. The biggest issue was an overall lack of tension. Even during the intense parts of the story, like when Lara Jean was being cyber bullied, I felt bad for her, but I didn’t pick up on the tension because it wasn’t clear to me what she stood to lose with the video going viral. Sure, her dad found out about it, but they had a brief conversation and everything was fine again. I like that Han didn’t get preachy and make her book into an after school special on cyber bullying or the dangers of teenage sex, but I did want to see some actual consequences for Lara Jean and Peter. I also needed to see more consequences for Lara Jean depending on which guy from her love triangle she decided to choose.

Overall, it was adorable and there was a general lack of consequences leading to a general lack of tension.

But, if you like romancey-funny-cutesy books, then give it a read!

Happy Reading,

Mallory