Series: Vanished #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on May 12th, 2015
Gone Girl meets Pretty Little Liars in this fast-paced psychological thriller full of delicious twists and turns.
Friendship. Obsession. Deception. Love.
Kalah knows better than to fall for Beth Taylor . . . but that doesn't stop her from falling hard and falling fast, heart first into a sea of complications.
Then Beth vanishes. She skips town on her eighteenth birthday, leaving behind a flurry of rumors and a string of broken hearts. Not even Beth's best friend, Britney, knows where she went. Beth didn't even tell Kalah good-bye.
One of the rumors links Beth to Britney's boyfriend, and Kalah doesn't want to believe the betrayal. But Brit clearly believes it--and before Kalah can sort out the truth, Britney is dead.
When Beth finally reaches out to Kalah in the wake of Brit's suicide, Kalah wants to trust what Beth tells her. But she's swiftly realizing that nothing here is as it seems. Kalah's caught in the middle of a deadly psychological game, and only she can untangle the deceptions and lies to reveal the unthinkable truth.
Wow, I haven’t felt this conflicted about a book in ages. Reading Vanished was like a roller coaster for my mood; I was constantly fluctuating between obsessed and over it. This book has an excellent mystery and a great protagonist, but there were a few flaws here too. My thoughts and feelings about this story are still constantly changing even as I write this review. So excuse me if I’m all over the place, but sometimes the only way to review a book is word-vomit.
Let me start off by saying something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops: the main character of Vanished is an Indian, bisexual girl named Kalah who lives with OCD. Wrap your little brain around that for a second and bask in the awesome intersectionality. I almost wrote this book off entirely because of the less than appealing cover, but then I read Ashleigh’s review – and thank god I did! I would have missed out on a truly wonderful main character. Seriously, if you see diversity in books, you guys need to yell about it, because these books may not be marketed as such and thus lose a huge chunk of their audience!
Like I said, Kalah was awesome. Her voice, while not stream-of-consciousnesses or anything like that, still rang loud and clear throughout the text. She felt like a real girl to me with her particular style of humor and her own set of anxieties. She’s dealt with mental health problems in the past, but for the most part has her symptoms under control (of course, until the world starts crashing down around her.) What I liked most about her was that she felt perfectly balanced – she’s one of the most popular girls in her school and she’s got a great boyfriend and she’s next up for captain of her field hockey team. She’s got a mean streak and can give into pettiness like any teenage girl can. But she’s also insecure, she has her OCD to contend with, she’s very family-oriented when not dealing with the disappearance and suicide of her best friends. And she was actually smart – smart enough to put together the pieces of the mystery in a timely manner without having me, the reader, pulling my hair out in frustration.
There was no obvious way that the mystery could have turned out, because the mystery itself was constantly changing. Where was Beth? What happened to Britney? The whos and the whats were always sort of all over the place, and on one hand, this kept my guessing, but on the other hand, it made the book lack focus. The first half of this book just read like a normal contemporary about a girl left behind by two friends – one runaway, and another who took her own life. The real mystery elements didn’t appear until pretty late in the game.
My biggest problem here was my lack of connection to any characters outside of Kalah – and despite my opening remarks, I did have problems with Kalah, too. See, Kalah is cheating on her boyfriend with her friend Beth. And it’s been ongoing for a while now. And since Zack himself was just a shell of a person with literally no personality to speak of, this element felt unnecessary. Kalah could have kept her relationship with Beth a secret without infidelity having anything to do with it. Plus, I’m just tired of the bisexual-people-cheat stereotype. Kalah’s friendship dynamic with Beth and Brit also isn’t my favorite trope in the world. Beth and Brit are the two most popular seniors in school and they sort of take Kalah, a junior, under their wing for no real reason, and Kalah constantly feels like she needs to prove that she belongs in this trio. It’s frustrating and sad, and I feel that this book would have been better off without that added conflict. Without it, Kalah’s despair over losing them would have felt more real to me.
Under the spoiler cut I’m going to compare this book with another: Dangerous Girls. I don’t feel like I’m giving anything away by just stating this, but if you haven’t read both of these books, you might not want to click this. View Spoiler » Kalah’s craziness takes her over the edge near the end of the book and it becomes clear that she’s an unreliable narrator. I’m still not sure whether Kalah’s suspicions about Brit were right or not, and that makes me want the sequel even more than I should. Also, the last line of Vanished was basically ripped right from the last page of Dangerous Girls which mildly infuriated me. Couldn’t Cooper have come up with anything besides a necklace? I mean, really. « Hide Spoiler
Vanished is perfect for fans of thrillers, homoerotic, toxic female friendships a la Dangerous Girls or Dare Me, and for those who are looking for more cross-representation in their diversity. This isn’t the perfect book, and I struggled a lot with connecting with the characters. But the mystery pulls you along from page to page and has enough twists and genuinely creepy moments to keep you up well into the night, dying to find out what’s to come.