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Vanishing Girls Hardcover – March 10, 2015
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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From the Publisher
Vanishing Girls Original Short Story
We were all there for different reasons—some of us by choice, some of us because we’d been dragged by parents or well-meaning pastors or as punishment for staying out too late the weekend before, many of us for no greater reason than curiosity, though we would never have admitted it. What kind of monster is curious about the sudden disappearance of an eleven-year-old girl, a girl in all probability already lying dead somewhere, cut into pieces or buried in a shallow grave?
Lots of us, that’s who. But again, we would never admit it. Like we would never admit the other thing, the suspicion that all of this, the police and the megaphones and the Save Madeline Snow campaign, is probably useless, that Madeline is already dead.
Most of us are local but that doesn’t mean we know or particularly like each other. Case in point: Warren Grover, known primarily for his annual campaign of Halloween terror, is one of the first to arrive at Big Scoop Ice Cream and Candy, and even now stands licking a sugar cone filled with mint Oreo ice cream and blinking happily in the sun, as if we’re all here for a picnic. Diana Davies and her daughter Lydia, both identically blond and wound-up looking, like dolls animated into life, keep as far away from him as possible—Diana hasn’t forgiven him for egging their house last Halloween, Lydia for the fact that at the spring homecoming dance the year before he put a hand not on her ass but on the ass of her best friend, Monroe, who doesn’t even have a good ass. And Monroe is there, too—because she’s curious, and also because as a junior she’s getting a little desperate for something she’ll be able to use for a college essay topic—trying not to stare at Warren, wondering whether he’ll get a girlfriend when he goes off to college, thinking about how they’d met in a basement stairwell during the homecoming dance, how he’d reached into her dress to touch her breasts; how they’d panted into each other’s mouths like dogs and she’d almost, almost let him slip two fingers inside her underwear. How beautiful she’d felt, and how empty afterward, like an air-filled balloon, like she was floating.
At first when we arrive we are excited and doing our best not to show it. Instead we frown and shake our heads, exchange meaningful glances with strangers, as if we’re all in church and about to shake hands and say and peace be with you. Lydia turns away and rubs her eyes to make them water. Monroe, catching herself smiling flirtatiously at Warren as he licks the last of his ice cream cone, quickly frowns. She tries to imagine serious things. School tests. Church sermons. Damp basements. But all she can picture is Warren fumbling a hand beneath her dress. .. Should she have said yes? Would he have kept going? Would she? And Lydia, next to her, having succeeded in drawing out a few tears, cranes onto her tiptoes to see over the crowd and, finding that the news crews haven’t started filming yet, thinks what a waste.
Who knows what the Snows are thinking? It’s unimaginable. Even standing so close to them, it’s unimaginable. Like standing on the lip of a black hole, just a short step away from an unfathomably deep drop.
The minutes lumber along. The sun is relentless and the asphalt throws it back in our faces. The police are still talking with the Snows, and we begin checking our cell phones and watches, but covertly, quickly, so no one will see and know how impatient we’re getting. Twenty minutes later, at 12:20, there’s no sign of movement, not a whispered instruction from the powers-that-be. We cast longing looks at Big Scoop, can practically feel the kiss of the air conditioning, taste the sugar melting in our mouths. Maybe just a single scoop? But no, no. Totally inappropriate. We’re not all like Warren Grover.
When the news vans come finning up the street, they remind us of underwater creatures, those deeply underwater ones that exist without air or oxygen and so have sprouted all of these bizarre appendages, luminescent foreheads and disk-like eyes. Everyone agrees: we had no idea there would be so many news crews. Coralee Wilkins, head cheerleader at Springfield High School, says loudly she hopes absolutely no one will try and film her: she’s been crying her eyes out every day since Maddie disappeared. Just in case, however, she fixes her bangs, and checks her teeth in the reflective case of her new iPhone.
The reporters line up together, microphones and cameras level and ready, like ancient warriors at the edge of the battlefield. The TV reporters have expensive suits and big shiny lips and they all look hungry. What a terrible job, we all say. Like mosquitos, feeding on grief. Really, they should be ashamed. We crane onto our tiptoes to get a better view of Madeline’s parents, standing with several police officers at the far end of the parking lot next to the media vans. Mr. Snow, we agree, has been drinking—he has that beaten-up look, like someone has taken a meat tenderizer to his cheeks. Mrs. Snow is too thin, a shadow sliver of a woman, like a single claw. Sarah Snow is standing with her arms wrapped around her waist as if it’s eight degrees and not eighty. Her best friend, Kennedy, who was helping Sarah babysit the night her little sister disappeared, keeps scowling at the reporters who try and take her picture.
Christ, it’s hot. You’d think they’d get this show on the road.
12:35 already. In the boredom grows a spirit of restlessness. As more and more people arrive, the parking lot begins to feel less like a funeral, more like a block party. We forget where we are and burst out laughing. We compare pictures on our phones and the latest YouTube videos. Raj Agurwal, star quarterback at Springfield, squeezing past Camille Demotte, founder and the school’s most vocal representative of the Purity Club, pinches her ass on a dare. She shrieks. Raj and his friends burst into laughter.
We begin to whisper—about the case, the Snow parents, the people assembled, Isn’t that Emily Wong, from channel four? She looks fatter in person. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
If this is how the cops run a search, just imagine how they’ll bungle an investigation…Andy Schwarz must be out of rehab…He’s over by the Dumpsters and I swear he’s hung over…You’ll never guess who I just saw. One of the Warren sisters—you know the Warren sisters, those poor girls, so hard to tell them apart, they might be twins—they were in the terrible accident down by Orphan’s Cove. You didn’t hear about the accident? Seriously? We thought everyone had heard about it. Really awful. Our friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law was one of the first responders…he said the car hood was folded up like an accordion. Of course you can’t trust foreign-made cars anymore. Our friend’s cousin’s dad says so, and his dad is a mechanic.
We all think it’s sweet of her to be here, really. See her—wearing the blue shirt? Pretty girl. Sweet of her to show up and be reminded…
Secretly, we are all thankful: Thank God it wasn’t our daughter, our sister. Thank God it wasn’t us.
Finally, one of the cops hops the sea wall and gestures for our attention. He might as well have fired a gun. We go quiet all at once. Coralee, mid- whispered sentence about the fact that Sarah Snow doesn’t look half as upset as she should—if it were my sister, I’d never be just standing there—lets the rest of the words curl up, withering, in her throat, like a caterpillar lodged in her vocal chords.
The cop, Lieutenant Frank Hernandez, reviews the facts of Madeline Snow’s disappearance: sometime between 10:00 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. on the evening of July 19, Madeline Snow disappeared from the backseat of Sarah Snow’s car while Sarah and Kennedy were in the Big Scoop getting ice cream. We hold our breath, waiting for a new detail, a final screw to nail the whole story into place, to give it purpose and sense. But there are no new details. Just the same old story, the sudden disappearance of a girl from her sister’s car. A book breaking off mid-sentence. A story that stops making sense, that turns from English into a new language, something old and frightening, a language we’d prefer to forget.
We move over the sea wall and fan out, standing close enough that we could touch shoulders if we lifted our arms. The water foams in the sand, spitting out paper bags and old cigarette stubs, trading them for more trash, slurping up pebbles to wear down over time into nothing. More than one of us thinks, irrationally, of Madeline Snow appearing in the waves, like a mythological creature, like a goddess sent to shore in a seashell. But for most of us, the drumbeat of hopelessness returns. She’s gone, the ocean seems to say. She’s gone. Give up.
It’s much slower than we thought. Every few feet we have to stop when someone shouts, and excitement pulses through the line, as if we’ve all momentarily joined hands and squeezed. But it’s always a false alarm. A beer can embedded in the sand, glinting momentarily like jewelry; a girl’s lost bracelet, but not this girl, not the right one; a tube of lipstick.
And finally we’ve reached the water. The waves hurl the sun back on itself, dazzling us with the reflection, seething and foaming, joyful and ignorant. There is nowhere else to go. What a waste, we can’t help but think.Too late, the whispering voice is there, too, in the back of our minds. We’re too late. She’s already dead.
On the way back to the parking lot, we break up into smaller groups, talking, doing our best to ignore that awful whispering suspicion, the image of a little blond girl bloodied and abandoned somewhere. Have you been reading the Shoreline Blotter? I heard that most times when a child disappears, it’s actually the parents’ fault....
Suddenly there’s a shout. The news cameras pivot as one, like component parts of a single mechanical animal. At one end of the beach, Warren Grover is lying on his back in the sand. Raj Agurwal has him pinned with an elbow.
“He took something.” Raj’s face is sheened with sweat and he’s out of breath. Beneath him, Warren writhes and struggles, but Raj has been playing football since he was a little boy and keeps him down easily. “I saw him reach down and put something in his pocket.”
“I didn’t.” Warren is sweating, too. He looks like a drenched rabbit. “Get off me.” “Leave him alone,” Monroe says, breaking free of the crowd, and feeling a momentary thrill when Warren’s eyes tick to hers. But immediately they slide away and she feels her heart drop through her stomach. Did he even recognize her? “He stole something,” Raj insists, leaning hard on Warren’s chest so that he groans. “Make him turn out his pockets.”
Lieutenant Hernandez shoulders through the crowd. His face is creased like a folded napkin, from permanently squinting against the sun. He looks down at the boys wrestling at his feet with an expression impossible to decipher. Maybe that’s why he became a cop—he has a great poker face. “Stand up,” he says quietly.
Immediately, Raj releases Warren and stands up, brushing sand off his jeans. For the first time, he seems to register the cameras whirling quietly and phones held aloft and lenses reflective as eyes.
“He’s hiding something,” Raj says, but defensively now, as if he expects to be accused. He palms the back of his jeans. “It could be evidence. Right?” Warren gets to his feet too, keeping his head low. “It was nothing,” he mumbles.
Lydia Davies, sensing the opportunity to get revenge on Monroe for the crime of having been singled out by Warren, leans in to her best friend. “What a loser,” she whispers, and Monroe burns with embarrassment, burns thinking of the way his fingers fumbled to find her breasts beneath her bra. Lieutenant Frank Hernandez is unmoved. “Turn out your pockets, son,” he says quietly.
Warren hesitates. He looks around, more rabbit-like than ever, as if he’s considering bolting. And for a second the late afternoon sun seems to sharpen, to lengthen, to point finger-like from the heavens as though in anger. We hold our breath. Maybe it all comes down to right here, right now, and Warren Grover on an everyday stretch of beach.
Then Warren sighs and reaches into his pockets, turning them inside out so they poke like stiff tongues from his jeans, and shaking out his belongings into the sand. Gas station lighter. Cigarettes. A car key. A debit card. And— “There.” He reaches down and snatches up the one hundred-dollar bill, folded in quarters, practically shoving it into Hernandez’s hand. Then he turns to Raj. “I told you it was nothing. A hundred bucks, that’s all. I thought someone should take it.”
“All right.” Hernandez rubs his forehead, the first sign he’s showed of exhaustion. “Come on. It’s been a long day. Let’s go home.”
Raj is still glaring at Warren. Warren turns away, scooping up his belongings from the sand before stomping up toward the parking lot, bent nearly double, as if he’s shouldering through an invisible barrier. As the crowd breaks up again, someone speaks up: “Waste,” he says. “What a waste.”
We look around, pretending to be outraged—how insensitive—but in reality we are relieved that someone finally said it. A waste. An afternoon spent sweating on the beach in front of strangers. And nothing was found, nothing achieved. We weren’t even interviewed! So what was the point of all those cameras?
As she climbs over the sea wall—clumsily straddling the stone, whereas Lydia took it lightly, leaping like an Olympian to the other side—Monroe is filled with a sense of foreboding. Without knowing how it occurred, or even what the game was, she knows that somehow Lydia has won; she knows, too, that there will always be a game like this, always unspoken rules she has failed to follow and a game she hasn’t totally understood, always a challenge she will inevitably fail. For a moment, looking back at the beach, she imagines herself dead, taken up by the waves and split bone from skin from hair from eyelashes, and thinks it might not be that bad.
While Warren thinks it was just a stupid hundred-dollar bill, thinks of what he could have bought with it, thinks of the fresh, rank-smelling bud and the clouds of nothingness and peace he could have bought, thinks she’s dead anyway, she’s definitely dead, they’re idiots if they don’t see it…
And Coralee, seeing Sarah Snow dart across the highway not twenty feet from an enormous truck with a ten-foot grille like too big teeth and an engine panting hot blasts into the road, feels a sudden tightening of guilt and then thinks it’s not my fault. Thinks, she deserved it.
And Raj scanning the crowd, wonders whether Coralee Wilkins noticed what he did, wonders whether she even cares.
The ocean rasps back and forth across the sand, like hurling itself by habit against the ground and then rebounding. Give up, it repeats. Give up.
It’s six-thirty by now, and even the sun is exhausted, throwing itself across the parking lot, stretching into shadow. We’re tired. We’re sweaty. Some of us smell—there’s a sticky, turned-beef smell coming up off the crowd. It wasn’t as exciting as we thought it would be, and what to we have to show for it? Most of us regret coming. Most of us just want to go home.
One of us is afraid. More than afraid. Suffocating, bleeding terror out of the pores and inhaling it with every breath. Because one of us knows exactly what happened—what really happened—on the night Madeline Snow disappeared.
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Different as night and day, sisters Nick and Dara are practically joined at the hip. Nick is perpetually the cool and calm older one who calls the shots. Dara is always tagging along, longing to be in the spotlight. That was before the accident that left Dara injured and Nick shaken to the core. Now, the siblings barely speak to each other; they live together but never cross paths. Nick gets a job at a local amusement park and begins to interact with people again, mostly with her longtime best friend, but also with her sister's ex-boyfriend, Parker. As the summer continues, a young local girl goes missing and Nick finds herself getting more involved with the ensuing drama than she ever expected. The situation comes to a boiling point at Dara's birthday dinner when she disappears too, and it's up to Nick to piece the story together and discover what has happened to her sister. Like in her "Delirium" series and Before I Fall (2010, both HarperCollins), Oliver's characterizations and background stories are well-developed and compulsively readable. The relationship between Nick and Dara drives the plot and is very realistic. The twist the author incorporates at the end is dramatic without being absurd and was completely unexpected. Recommend to teens looking for a well-written work with a juicy ending. They will not be disappointed.—Morgan Brickey, Marion County Public Library System, FL
“Alarming and uplifting, a rare psychological thriller that has a kind heart at its center. Read it with all the lights on.” (--E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars)
“Perfect for readers who devoured We Were Liars, it’s the sort of novel that readers will race to finish, then return to the beginning to marvel at how it was constructed—and at everything they missed.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Oliver’s characterizations and background stories are well-developed and compulsively readable. Recommend to teens looking for a well-written work with a juicy ending. They will not be disappointed.” (School Library Journal)
“Best-selling Oliver weaves a taut mystery interspersed with blog posts about Madeline’s disappearance, and the story is made all the more compelling by Nick and Dara’s close but troubling relationship, marked by both love and intense jealousy.” (Booklist)
PRAISE FOR BEFORE I FALL: “Oliver’s debut novel is raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful....readers will love Samantha best as she hurtles toward an end as brave as it is heartbreaking.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
PRAISE FOR BEFORE I FALL: “Samantha’s attempts to save her life and right the wrongs she has caused are precisely what will draw readers into this complex story and keep them turning pages until Sam succeeds in living her last day the right way.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (starred review))
PRAISE FOR BEFORE I FALL: “Oliver, in a pitch-perfect teen voice, explores the power we have to affect the people around us in this intensely believable first novel...This is a compelling book with a powerful message and should not be missed.” (ALA Booklist)
PRAISE FOR PANIC: “Oliver makes a white-knuckle return to realism that will have readers up until the wee hours.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
PRAISE FOR PANIC: “Oliver’s novel is a wholly believable and compulsively readable tale of friendship, loyalty, survival, and courage.” (Booklist)
PRAISE FOR PANIC: “Retains all the tension and excitement of Oliver’s Delirium…A work with sharp corners, dark places, and considerable humanity.” (The Horn Book)
Top customer reviews
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Then there's The Twist, and... hm. Yeah. There's not a lot I can say about it without being spoilery, so I won't, but I will say it felt too pat to me, and a bit too like a popular-media-fied version of how the world works. I was heavily skeptical that events could have worked out as portrayed.
With that said: I wouldn't say it's a "bad" book, per se; it just wasn't the one I was expecting or hoping to read, and it really wasn't my thing. I did enjoy Oliver's writing style (this was the first book of hers that I had read) and will probably pick up more of her work at some point to see if I get along better with it.
Oh my goodness. I really just was not expecting the tidal wave of emotions that hit me all through this book. It was really raw and completely uncensored in the emotional spectrum of things. Dara and Nick loved each other very much and would do anything for the other, but it seemed like there was a lot of deep-seated resentment towards the other from both of them. I personally felt like I connected more with Nick than I did Dara.
Honestly, this story idea is a great story idea. And the fact that it's very obvious that the author went out of her way to make sure that the book was written properly without any mistakes enhances the story even further. I feel there were a few gaps here and there, though. I feel like all of the characters but Nick and Dara were more background characters than anything else. I think they should have had more of a role in the book. I also feel like there should have been more memories thrown in to add more dramatic feels.
All in all, I loved this book. I was left so emotionally raw after I finished it that I almost didn't want to read another book. I am a book lover, though. So the reading will continue. This book is clean of sexual intercourse and I think foul language (can't remember). There are mature topics that are brought up in the book, but it's still appropriate for the young adult audiences. In fact, in my opinion, maybe reading the book may help young adults become more comfortable with speaking out when they don't feel okay about things.
Granted, it's rare if I'm able to figure out the ending before I get there. (So far, I only caught on to the movie "The Sixth Sense" within about 15 mns., and then only because I'm a mom. We moms are sneaky.)
For what it's worth, the ending sucker-punched me. (ie: I never saw it coming.) (I know! What kind of mom am, right?!) I was invested in the outcome I guess.
So, if you want a good - rainy, lazy, beach, wherever your day is - read, I'd recommend you give the Vanishing Girls a chance. Bear in mind (as the one-star reviewers seemed to forget), it's fiction.
Relax, don't over think it, just enjoy it. (And, no, you don't have to be a "young adult" to do so.)
The book explores the complex relationships between sisters, who are close friends some of the time, and competitors some of the time, who are in love with the same guy, who came through the car accident in different ways.
Well written (as are all of Lauren Oliver's books), this is a suspenseful and enjoyable YA read.
It was decent. There were a bunch of twists and turns. The story took the reader deep into these two sisters, and their lives. It centered on PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. A topic that is different for each individual, based on their traumatic circumstances. The plot around the sisters, leading to the PTSD is a whirlwind of emotions. Frankly, if you don't read the whole book, you may not get the story, even if you know what happens. There's a sort-of six degrees of separation here. It's not so blatant though.
Yup, I was lured in, and I liked it.
Most recent customer reviews
I have this say, this book really wasn't my genre. Realistic contemporary fiction doesn't really enthrall me, unless it has a certain...Read more