Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season
By Jodi Lynn Anderson
Expected publication July 1, 2014 by HarperTeen
Maggie and her family have just moved to Door County - right in time for girls to start showing up dead. Does Maggie know who's responsible? Does her new friend Pauline know?
I wanted to read this book because it sounded creepy and mysterious - right up my alley. Plus, I really enjoyed Anderson's Tiger Lily, and I was eager to try something else of hers.

This book is pretty hard to summarize because it is not really about what it says it is. Reading the blurb creates a certain expectation of what this book is going to give you. If you fall for that, you're probably going to be disappointed. You see, the blurb suggests that you're about to read a mystery, one about vanishing teen girls who later turn up dead. It also suggests that you may encounter a ghost while you're reading that mystery.

In the strictest sense of those words, I suppose the blurb is not wrong. But it is awfully misleading. This book is not about the vanishing girls at all. In fact, that mystery - the mystery that is described in the jacket copy - is never resolved. I'm serious. If that's going to bother you, you should probably go ahead and skip this book. Yes, Maggie and her new friends spend a fair bit of time worrying about the disappearing girls - who could be responsible? Are they in danger? But, really, the disappearances seem to be the impetus for a plot development in the story of what this book is actually about - which is the complicated friendship between Maggie and Pauline and Liam. This makes the book very frustrating. I expected a murder mystery - I got a contemplation of growing up and changing friendships.
And yes, there is occasionally a ghost in this book. However, the ghost pretty much disappears from the narrative for quite a long time during the main chunk of the book and, in addition, the ghost doesn't really add anything to the story. Yes, at the end of the book when the ghost's identity is revealed, it makes for an interesting twist to the story. But by this point, it just felt unnecessary.
I'm not saying I hated this book. It feels very mature and heady and engagingly written (albeit, rather slow-moving). The characters are quite lovely, though they frequently felt a bit far-fetched for me. Overall, this book just felt deceptive.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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