Vanishing Girls: Reading Lauren Oliver Is Like Watching A Beautiful Disaster

Vanishing Girls is written by Lauren Oliver. It was published in 2015 by Harper.

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 sisters, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

Well, Vanishing Girls is oodles better than Panic, even if all of Oliver’s contemporary novels contain the same formula and sound remarkably similar to each other. “Oodles better,” however, still doesn’t mean it’s a fantastic book.

But positives first: even though the twist at the end was spoiled to me, thanks to the Library of Congress tags, I really enjoyed seeing how Oliver crafted the dialogue to get to that twist. I experienced this book like someone would who had read it before and knew what was coming: looking at all the little hints and foreshadowing that Oliver throws in (mostly in the dialogue, but in other things as well) and enjoying them.

I also still really like Oliver’s writing, as evidenced by the fact that I’m not really a huge fan of any of her novels but still read her new ones anyway.

But still, I think Oliver depends way too much on stale formulas and cliché romance. I’m starting to really hate the “I’m in love with my best friend” trope; not because it’s a bad one but because it’s so overused. Oliver also used that trope in Panic and I was hoping for something more original.

Oliver also has the really old “teenagers are party animals” trope that is so prevalent in YA lit today. Nick, at least, was a subversion, but I didn’t like the fact that the book treated that as if it meant something was wrong with her. Dara drinks and does drugs and the response is “oh, she’s just acting out” while Nicole doesn’t and the response is “oh, man, something’s wrong with her. You should be worried about her because she’s not getting drunk or smoking pot.” Those reactions right there, to Dara’s and Nick’s actions, are why I cannot stand contemporary YA lit. most of the time. Please, stop normalizing dangerous and emotionally, mentally, and physically damaging behavior. That’s such a disastrous message.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, underage drinking, drug abuse, sex trafficking, sexual situations

Genre: Realistic, Young Adult

All morning, the talk has been of Madeline Snow. Her disappearance has sparked a three-county-wide manhunt. Every newspaper is plastered with her image, and the flyers have just multiplied, sprouting like fungus over every available surface.

Mom can’t get enough of it. This morning I found her sitting in front of the TV, her hair half-straightened, clutching her coffee without drinking.

“The first seventy-two hours are the most important,” she kept repeating, information I’m sure she’d regurgitated from a previous news report. “If they haven’t found her yet…”

Overall Review:

Vanishing Girls is better than Panic, but not by much. Oliver relies too much on stale romance tropes and her depiction of teenage behavior and the overall content of her book is actually enraging to me, and it’s why I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA lit. However, Oliver’s writing is as good as ever and her use of foreshadowing is great, as well.

You can buy this here: Vanishing Girls

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