Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
This book begins with two sisters trying to recover from a car accident and not speaking to each other. The circumstances of the accident and the split between the sisters remains clouded with amnesia and is one of the main mysteries of the book. About halfway through the book one sister disappears and the other goes off in search of her, but ends up getting involved in the case of another missing girl. The narrative includes diary entries, text messages, and school assignments, as well as first person narration from both sisters. There’s lots of suspense and tension, an atmosphere of forboding and paranoia. The setting includes a kitschy amusement park, and an abandoned lighthouse, an empty house.
The relationship between the sisters really resonated with me, especially as someone with a sister myself. Their complicated mix of affection, guilt, possessiveness, competition, and deep, deep knowledge of each other made them seem like real sisters. The way they define themselves by differentiating from each other felt true and overly familiar to me. And yet, they love each other and their real problem is that if anything, they’re too enmeshed.
I felt kind of ambivalent about the ending, or the big reveal. My inner harsh critic said it was cheap and too “Sixth Sense.” My inner happy reader felt it made sense and was earned by deliberate vaguenesses that Oliver the magician used distraction and misdirection to hide. I also wasn’t thrilled by the fact that a boy was what got between the sisters. I’d love to read some novel about a couple of sisters or close longtime female friends who have some kind of falling out that’s NOT about a boy. I know from experience it happens!