REVIEW: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Title: Vanishing Girls
Author: Lauren Oliver
Format: Paperback, 357 pages
Publication: March 10th 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Contemporary, Crime, Psychological Thriller, Realistic, Suspense
Other classifications: Brotherhood/SisterhoodDepression and Mental Illness, Young Adult

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This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara’s subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances.

Don’t ask me how I know. I just do. If you don’t understand that, I guess you’ve never had a sister.


The twist Vanishing Girls is less a crime novel, more a character study. And trust me when I say that that is for the better.

The twist Do you have a sibling? Have you ever felt the compulsion to never ever disappoint your parents because, no matter what you do, no matter how you act, no matter how much you love your sibling, you’ll always, always be compared to the other? It doesn’t matter what your position is, you’ll have this tacit rule of being the one to understand. Sometimes this builds a camaraderie, the kind that brings you to watch each other’s back, to want to protect each other’s secrets. But in most cases, this also creates a quiet, inner tension, the kind that cultivates unspoken jealousy and raises self-imposed responsibilities and expectations. This is at the heart of the Panic author’s latest novel.

“They say that you’re supposed to tell the truth. Dr. Lichme says that, anyway.
But don’t they also say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you?”

The twist Vanishing Girls is my first Lauren Oliver title and, admittedly, while it was rewarding, it didn’t make me want to devour her backlist. It took some time for the narrative to gain its footing and, even then, the thread seems to ebb and flow. Her style boarders from lyrical to maybe overly descriptive and I can see how this might come across as dragging for some. But it is one of those books where if you give up early on, you’d totally miss the gem. One of those where the more you ponder about it, the more you sit on it, the more the ingenuity of it washes over you. She commands her words, I soon found out. They are vivid, cutting and have a way of reaching deep inside you, tapping into thoughts you unconsciously carry around.

You broke my heart. I fell for you, and you broke my heart. Period, done, end of story.

The twist The story is narrated alternately by Warren sisters Nick and Dara and there are diary entries, online articles, e-mails and photographs—most of which are often eery—interspersed through out. It pre-opens with a life observation that impeccably captures the tone of the book. Then it opens officially right at the conflict, the night of the accident. Chapter 2 jumps four months later and we see a recovering Nick, the elder of the two, and the sister who refuses to talk to her, Dara. What instantly stuck out to me is how distinct and at the same time cognate Nick’s and Dara’s voices are, a manifestation of the author’s adept sense of what it’s like to have a sister and be a sister. People casually throw around the term “complex characters” but, with Nick and Dara, you’ll have a flash of instant clarity: this is what they mean with complex characters. It’s chilling and heartrending and impressive and there were instances I had to look over my shoulders.

“Sometimes people stop loving you. And that’s the kind of darkness that never gets fixed, no matter how many moons rise again, filling the sky with a weak approximation of light.”

The twist However, I think the way this book is pitched is misleading. Sure, the “vanishing girls” plot line meshes well with the family drama, but they sell this as the former when in fact it’s the other way around. The whole Madeline Snow arc felt quite removed; it’s really about the relationship between Nick and Dara. And Parker. If you’ve ever had best friends or still do, real close friendship, you’ll know that the author gets it. And Vanishing Girls wins the chicest cover award. Fantastic job, Anastasia Volkova and Erin Fitzsimmons!

“”It’ll be just like old times,” Parker says, and I feel a hard ache in my chest, a desperate desire for something lost long ago.
Everyone knows you can’t go back.”

The twist. Yes, no scratching now. Oliver must’ve rewrote and proofread her work a bajillion times because there is just no plot holes. She pulled off the reveal like it’s nobody’s business. I mean, I basically revisited a handful of chapters after she dropped the bomb. (And in case you’re wondering, I reread 70% of the book since finishing.) I don’t think I’ve read anything like this before but a close similar experience would be Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, in that both have a major WTF moment. And hell was it WTF. But this is where it becomes tricky. Because there’s no way talking around THE TWIST; I would give away too much. So just go out there, read this novel, come back to me and I can go all WHAT DID I TELL YOU? on you.

4.0 out of 5


Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver is the author of the teen novels Before I Fall and Panic and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of two novels for middle grade readers, The Spindlers and Liesl & Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee. Lauren’s novel Panic has been optioned for film by Universal Studios. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU’s MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit.

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Blogger’s note: I buddy-read this book with Dianne @ Oops! I Read A Book Again, exchanging “WTF was that?!!!” one too many times. You can check out her review HERE.

Now tell me: are you excited to pick this title up? Or if you’ve read it already, have you predicted the twist? Where should I go from here in the Lauren Oliver landscape? Do you like literary crime novels? What are some of your favorites? Also, do you buddy-read with your friends/co-bloggers? Tell me all about it!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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26 thoughts on “REVIEW: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

  1. You must read Panic by Lauren Oliver. Finished that in a day. I haven’t read an official crime novel—mystery books are awesome, though. My first YA is Liars Inc., by Paula Stokes. It’s also my favorite because Paula Stokes is awesome. We haven’t done an official buddy read—we read at different speeds and usually our TBRs aren’t that similar. But we tend to constantly update on what we’re reading. I would, of course, do a buddy read if the opportunity presented itself just to see what it would be like.



      “My first YA is Liars Inc.” HOW? Isn’t Liars, Inc. a 2015 new release? You’ve only read YA this year? There must be a typo in there somewhere? As for Panic, I think that’s what picking up next from Lauren.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I WILL WAIT—I WILL WAIT FOR YOU, MIEL (Quoting a Mumfords and Sons song.)
        I meant YA mystery. Lol. I started joining the YA community summer of 2014.
        LOL. Your reaction to that is hilarious though.
        Yeah. I would advise against Delirium. I DNF’d that. Couldn’t do it.


  2. The first book I read by Lauren Oliver was Delirium, and I LOVED it. In a lot of ways, it really opened my mind to dystopian stories just in time for them to become a trend. I think I read it in just a couple of hours, it’s a quick read. You should pick it up at the library if you get a chance.


    1. Wow. Couple of hours? That must be SO compelling! That’s a trilogy, right? Yeah, I remember it’s one of the first books before the genre exploded. Thank you for the recommendation, sadly, most of the libraries here do not carry interesting international titles.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Umm, Shelumiel. Why do you have lipstick? I’m just gonna assume that you borrowed some and/or only use them as photo props. 😛

    I haven’t read Vanishing Girls yet but I plan to. Have you read Before I Fall? I read that one a couple of years ago and really liked it. It’s actually interesting how diverse (in terms of genre) Lauren Oliver’s books are.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. EXACTLY. After taking the photo, I was like, that awkward moment when you have to borrow your aunt’s vanity kit for a photo shoot. For a book review. Haha! But, yeah, it’s only for props.

      Yes! I like that Lauren is all over the place. She has YA titles, MGs, adults. And the genres are varying, too! I haven’t read anything else from her but I think my close friend liked Before I Fall as well. As for the handwriting, THANK YOU! 🙂 I was extra careful, though, because that’s how Nick writes.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I am soo excited for this title! I actually wasn’t going to pick it up at first, then I read Faye from The Social Potatoe’s review, and I’m like ” Yup, I’m buying this! lol ” I’ve read Panic by Oliver, and I absolutely loved her writing style, so I atleast have something good to look forward to with Vanishing Girls. Was it an emotional read for you? I was told to have some tissues ready, so I need to be EXTRA prepared lol.


    1. Glad to hear that you’re excited for this one, Tika! Yeah, Faye even hosted a giveaway, right? And, um, I wasn’t the crying type, really, but this book certainly gave me both the feels and chills.


  5. I am always seeing this book at Fullybooked and NBS. I want to pick this in my next bookstore visit. I am so excited to read that THE TWIST you’re telling. I LOVE literary crime novels, who would not? Anyway, I don’t have any buddy-read sadly. I just enjoy reading it myself. But sometimes, Carmel on share some titles she loves and I’ll read it later so we can talk about it. 🙂

    Yani at Paper Boulevard’s Recent Post: Author Interview + Audiobook Clip: Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas


      1. Aaaaahh – thank you so much! This means more than I can ever say! As for the book, I hope you read it without looking for the twist. That way, it’ll be a thousand times better. And I hope you pick it up soon!

        If you can find a friend who wants/is willing to read the same book, I suggest you try buddy-reading. It’s such a fantastic (and in many levels, intimate) experience. And discussion helps you make sense of what you’re consuming.

        Thanks for dropping by, Yani!


  6. I’ve read three Oliver books before (Delirium, Pandemonium and Panic), all of which I didn’t really enjoy. I’m starting to think that she’s just an author I don’t “click” with. You mentioned lyrical and overly-descriptive writing, which I both dislike heavily. *But* I have to admit that I am EXTREMELY curious about the twist. I love books that make you go WTF (like Dangerous Girls!), so even if I haven’t read Gone Girl, I’ll probably read this one just to find out what the heck happened. 😉

    Awesome review, Shelumiel! And I absolutely love your photography. ❤

    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    Liked by 2 people

    1. AAAAAHH – THANK YOU, Aimee! 🙂

      Oh. But those are her first books, right? I feel like you may be right? I mean, 3 novels are enough to grasp one’s style… Have you tried her adult or MG titles? And I love lyrical BUT when it isn’t verbose. Like The Night Circus lyrical. Or The Song of Achilles or (faintly) The Darkest Part of the Forest kind.

      Have you watched the film adaptation of Gone Girl tho?


  7. My very first Lauren Oliver read was Delirium…and it was an epic failure for me. Nothing worked out for me with that one, nothing at all. And needless to say, I was unsure about picking up Vanishing Girls. Like you, it was a four star read for me but again, months after reading it, I’m second-guessing my rating.

    Here’s the thing: these type of twists aren’t anything “new” at all. Maybe 5 years ago they would have been something to turn upside down over, but I can rattle off at least 6 books that I’ve read with this exact type of ending…which is sad. Again, I agree about the synopsis being a bit misguided.

    As always, your review is fantastic and bang on, not to mention the picture is just amazingly well done ❤ Great, great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU, Rhea! I feel like I’m just repeating this over and over but, this kind of compliments means more than I can say!

      As for VG and Lauren Oliver, my reading buddy actually told me that VG is an easier gateway to the author compared to her previous titles and, in your case with Delirium and Aimee’s, I guess we can agree that she’s right. And I totally understand your “second-guessing” thing. I felt that with other books as well. So maybe I’m just lucky that this is my first novel that used this specific “twist”? But it was really WTF-worthy for me.


  8. OH my gosh that twist yes!!! Oliver is a total rock star and it amazes me how she pulled that off – it definitely shows how much research she went through! Definitely my favourite book by her.

    Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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