Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: The Vanishing Season, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Unable to sleep, she peered out into the dark yard. Across the field yellow light from the white house’s windows shone through the rain, giving off a comforting sense of safety and the feeling that something else was out there in the world besides just her and her parents.

Maggie dreamed that night about the lake, black and shining in the dark, with angels spreading their wings on its surface. Open and close, open and close, like the wings of moths.


Official synopsis:
Girls started vanishing in the fall.

For Maggie Larsen, the town of Gill Creek is only a stopgap before college and freedom. Until she meets Pauline and Liam. What starts as an uneventful year suddenly changes. Someone is killing teenage girls, and the town reels from the tragedy. As Maggie's and Pauline's worlds collide and change around them, they will both experience love and loss...


The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson turned out to be nothing I expected. Based on the synopsis, I anticipated a mystery or ghost story with a little romance thrown in. It's not really any of those things even though elements of all three play into the book.

The Vanishing Season focuses on discovery. The mood the author creates sweeps over the reader the way a winter wind shifts the snow, covering the landscape in an even, eerie white. Sadly, I read it at the wrong time of year. I still enjoyed it, but I wish I could have traded the early weeks of summer for brisker days of late fall and early winter when the book takes place. The setting calls to mind the smell of the first snow, the chill in the air, the coziness of being inside and the crisp serenity of ventures into the snowy landscape. I recommend one read the entire book in a chilly, gray weekend or afternoon (maybe just after Thanksgiving). Get some cocoa or tea, and venture out into the wintery chill of the evening wrapped in a blanket to read the last chapter. (You don’t have to do any of that, but it will lend a great deal to the mood).

Like the title suggests, The Vanishing Season explores things lost, vanished. We open with Maggie, our protagonist, who is moving to a northern country home. Her mother has lost her job. The family lost its Chicago apartment. Maggie has lost her social circle and, because of the move, her part time job as well. Where she moves, the girls her age are losing their lives to a serial killer, and a ghostly, unidentified, secondary narrator has lost herself and her sense of place. Amidst all this loss, Maggie starts to discover herself in the absence of her former, familiar life. The ghost story, the serial killer and even the romance, fade into the blustery cold.

The Vanishing Season drives by mood rather than plot, but that works for the story that it's telling. Topics such as mortality, planning for the future, friendship, imagining people complexly, forgiveness and sacrificial love all drift into the story in surprisingly down-to-earth, quiet, relatable ways. The tone is conversational. The author's careful prose wraps you up into the story. At a few points, I thought this lovely little book was going to waste its uniqueness by leaving me on a predictable path of typical YA tropes, but it never did. It always veered off into something a little different. Almost always, anyway. 

The ending could have wrapped up more creatively without compromising the impact of the story. I think the author took the easy way out here, but I can’t say more without risking spoilers. The end only soured the experience slightly, though. This isn’t a fast paced, page-turner, but it held my interest and left me locked inside its little world when I closed the back cover.

The Vanishing Season isn’t a perfect book. It won’t thrill you, scare you, make you fall in love or leave you with a perfect ending to cap off its meandering story. But it will get under your skin and wrap you up in its emotion. It is a beautiful book. The writing and mood and ideas contained within set it apart from such simple categorizations as YA Romance or YA Paranormal or YA Mystery. This book won’t appeal to everyone, but it will remain lovely, nonetheless. 

4 out of 5 stars.
{Click here to purchase this book}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

About the reviewer:
Rebecca Eve Schweitzer is a business to business magazine editor and fashion blogger. You can read more of her writing at FashionMeFabulous.com.

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