The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (2014)
Suggested age range: 13 and up (Harper Collins, 256 pages)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Paranormal
The Book: At first glance, this might seem like a ghost story. In some ways it is. In some ways, it isn’t. It’s about Maggie, who moves to Door County, Wisconsin where a bitterly cold winter ushers in a dangerous season for girls. They start disappearing. Having moved from Chicago, Maggie and her parents slowly start to make a home for themselves in this bleak and yet beautiful landscape, and Maggie develops connections with neighbors Pauline, and Pauline’s good friend, Liam. The friendship between these three teens is the central focus of the book, but woven within that narrative is a mystery—including a mystery about the narrator of the story—who is telling us what happened and what role did he/she have to play in the events that transpired that tragic winter?
Spirituality in The Vanishing Season: Anderson touches on some interesting topics that illuminate issues of spirituality—what happens when we die, if we are tied in some profound way to another person, and the power of relationships to bring healing and forgiveness.
Though I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s depiction of what happens when someone dies, the story definitely would provide an opportunity for some fascinating discussion. The question of uncertainty about the narrator brings up the idea that different people see the same events in various ways—it seems that when we come to that awareness, it may be easier to understand others.
Who Should Read This Book: If you loved We Were Liars, you should read Anderson’s new book. Those of you that love Tiger Lily, yes, I would recommend you read The Vanishing Season, but I wouldn’t say this is at the same level as Tiger Lily. It’s a different kind of book, and, as you might have read on GoodReads, opinions were widely varied. I didn’t have the problems with this story that some other reviewers did, but I can see their frustration with the idea that not much happened in the story. However, I found myself gripped and turning the pages, wanting to know what was going on with these vanishing girls, but also wondering how the connections between Maggie, Pauline, and Liam were going to work out.
The Final Word: This book gave me a hangover when I finished it. I will eventually re-read it though. I want to comb through the story, look for clues, and appreciate again Anderson’s rich and atmospheric language. I enjoyed the book (as much as you can when you get to the end of a book and just want to sit and stare into space) but I struggled with the ending a bit. I wanted something different for the central characters, but I could understand where Anderson was going with the narrative. Point of discussion—compare the ending of this story with Tiger Lily. Could be an interesting talk!