BOOK REVIEW: 'Vanishing Girls': A Young Adult Novel That Parents, Older Adults Will Enjoy

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

If there's such a creature as a crossover Young Adult novel -- and I believe it's possible -- Lauren Oliver's "Vanishing Girls" (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 368 pages, $18.99, available in a Kindle edition from can be considered an exemplar.

BOOK REVIEW: 'Vanishing Girls': A Young Adult Novel That Parents, Older Adults Will Enjoy

Oliver writes in a way that readers of Ellen Hopkins will approve -- albeit in conventional prose rather than the verse that's the trademark of Hopkins. I've reviewed many of Hopkins' Y.A. and adult novels and I've become a big fan of her crossover appeal. For my reviews, use the search engine on the Huntington News Network home page.

"Vanishing Girls" is a psychological thriller about the nightmare of missing girls. Nine-year-old Madeline Snow has gone missing and the entire Norwalk community is doing everything it can to locate here. Norwalk is a city in Connecticut, on Long Island Sound, only a few miles from the New York state line, but Oliver in this novel  doesn't identify it as part of any state and combines elements of other coastal cities in a convincing matter. The scenes at the aging FanLand amusement park provide an element of comic relief.

Also gone missing is Dara Warren, 16, who was injured in a car crash. The car was driven by Nicole (Nick) Warren, Dara's 17-year-old  sister, who escaped without physical injury -- but with a world of psychological hurt. As any parent will agree, the day their son or daughter gets a driver's license is the start of a period of constant worry. It's much worse in this age of texting  --and Oliver hints that Nick was texting at the time of the accident.

Nick suspects that Dara's disappearance on her birthday is somehow linked to Madeline Snow's -- and may be further linked to Andre, the manager of a club who appears to be exploiting underage girls in a pornographic manner. More worries for today's parents! See what I mean about the crossover appeal, which is enhanced when we learn that the parents of Dara and Nick have gone their separate ways.

Well into the novel, the reader it confronted with startling information that changes everything. No, I'm not going to give this spoiler royale away!

"Vanishing Girls" is beautifully written and will hold the attention of young readers as well as older ones. That's quite an achievement in this era of segmented, targeted book categories.

Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver

About the author

Lauren Oliver is the author of the New York Times bestselling YA novels "Before I Fall", which was published in 2010; "Panic"; and the Delirium trilogy: "Delirium", "Pandemonium" and "Requiem", which have been translated into more than thirty languages. She is a 2012 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award nominee for her middle-grade novel "Liesl & Po", as well as author of the fantasy middle-grade novel "The Spindlers". "Panic", published in March 2014, has been optioned by Universal Pictures in a major deal. Her first novel for adults, "Rooms", was published in late September 2014.  A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the co-founder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at