Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: Vanished

Got an ARC for the first time in a long time, and tried not to reflect for too long on how little I liked the cover art, in order to get to the plot inside. Unfortunately, that didn't do much for me, either. Here's why Vanished wasn't a favorite of mine... 

Vanished, by E. E. Cooper, follows the story of Kalah, whose too busy juggling a burgeoning crush on her best friend, Beth, to see that their friendship with Brittney is quickly disintegrating. When Beth takes off, leaving little trace behind, Kalah can't help but think of what she could have done wrong... and when Britney is believed to be dead, shortly after finding out of ties between Beth and Brit's boyfriend, Kalah knows that Beth has to come back. But as secrets mount, it's clear that nothing here is really what it seems, including the people she thought were her best friends.

No one's going to pick up this book because it's packing anything radical. Why bother reinventing the wheel with YA thrillers when Pretty Little Liars have already done it so well? I mean, even searching for the title on Goodreads will bring up so many other novels named Vanished, and I felt like that was a pretty good allegory for the novel itself: it's nothing new.

Even post-Chapter One, I had a couple of concerns, compounded after a conversation about representation in popular fiction, with my younger sister over tea. In Vanished, the main character is non-white, and bisexual, so it would seemingly be a big ol' woohoo for diversity in YA, right? However, that was where all notable decisions made about characterization were pretty much finalized.

So many components were just-off the mark for me. I have notes scribbled throughout the edition I was given that an editor easily could have filled in... "Blonde lead characters named Britney and Beth? What is this, the '90s?" (Yes, I'm sassy even in shorthand.)

The ethnically diverse lead could have been an awesome representative choice... but it gave no dimension to the character. Similarly, the bisexuality component could have played an interesting role in the dynamics of the friend group... but the romance was murky and undeveloped, and only served as a road bump for her and her long-term boyfriend (and making them a "cheater" is definitely not the right way to write compelling bisexual characters, anyways).

Current view of my desk.... I've been trying for about five minutes to try and find some kind of metaphor for these frogs for Vanished - overly chewy? not sweet enough? dug it out of the clearance bin? - but nothing seems to be working. 
Also, not a huge fan that the lead characters issues with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are used to seemingly make her an unreliable narrator. (Similarly, not happy that there are those among the book-blogging community who are using this to laud the inclusion of a "disabled" character). It complicated the plot and was handled in a fairly appropriate way in terms of description, but I haven't really been loving peoples' reactions to it.

And maybe it's just me, or did anyone else think that the chronology of the disappearance-murder timeline didn't exactly work out like it was supposed to?

I don't know, Maybe it's just because I've been volunteering all day before taking the time to write this out, and I'm a little crankypants that I could have posted this earlier, had I just taken the time to bring together all the reasons why this book just didn't work for me. But while I made it through the book, and it had a couple interesting attempts at plot twists, things were a little too sloppily handled for me to really latch onto it. 

Final Verdict: a new variation on the growing YA thriller genre, but still manages to sloppily handle the very concepts that may have been their strong suits. Attempts at diversity didn't quite hit the mark, and there were too many cliches beyond that to make it much of a contender.

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