Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Summary (from Goodreads):
Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter's come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I've watched the danger swell.

The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I'm the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I'm tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why. I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig. I am looking for the things that are buried.

From bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson comes a friendship story bound in snow and starlight, a haunting mystery of love, betrayal, redemption, and the moments that we leave behind.
This was a beautiful book. Jodi Lynn Anderson is one of those authors I’d like to force anti-YA readers to read. The writing style is descriptive and metaphorical. There’s so much I can say about how the book goes from Pauline and Maggie to the ghost that sometimes gets the spotlight between chapters. All of the words spoken in the sprit’s voice were so eerily beautiful and almost philosophical. I went back to re-read some of the spirit’s passages just because of how nicely all of the words sounded together.
On the other hand, as can be noted by other reviewers, this wasn’t so much a supernatural ghost story, as it was a coming of age romantic story. And I was okay with this. Yes, I wish the publishing company could have done a better job representing the story on the back cover, but really this didn’t seem to bother me as much as it did for other readers. I liked that the supernatural qualities took the back seat to the real life. I also found the pacing to be fine (unlike other reviewers that commented on the slowness). I still read this in one day, and sometimes it is refreshing to read a book that doesn’t have speed of light pacing.
I found all the small town quirks to be interesting. I loved that each character had a guess for who the serial murderer was. I liked the gossip and the religious undertones. I loved the sense of nature and beauty.
What really took away from what could have been a remarkable book for me was the hazy sense of time. For chapters I believed this to take place in the 70’s. Disco music was mentioned. There was plenty of talk of gramophones and old school jazz music. Girls most often wore dresses (that seemed to go down below the knee a lot). It was a bit of a shock when a modern thing would pop up randomly, something like Grumpy Cat….And I’d be like whoa. What time period is this supposed to be?
No one watched tv. None of the teens spent any time on Facebook or YouTube or any kind of social networking site. And while I get that there are plenty of teens today that aren’t addicted to an online culture, I found it a little hard to believe that none of the teen characters in this book seemed to have any interest in pop culture or modern technology at all. Maggie painted for fun or read classic literature. Liam was always outside, building things like saunas (!) and doing things with his hands. And Pauline I understood to be the childlike character who wouldn’t be into these things…but still.
And I know this is not crucial to the plotline, but this bothered me. I kind of wished it did take place in the 70’s.  Because I just kept thinking that this author really didn’t understand teenagers enough. She got the big picture things about jealousy and heartbreak, but none of the little picture things that would have made this a whole lot better in my opinion.
The author did genuinely shock me at the end. There was a twist I was not expecting at all. And I literally had to put the book down for a few minutes to process my surprise. This almost covered up my slight disappointment in the lack of closure on one of the main plot points, but not quite. I wish there was just a little more closure at the end.
All in all, the writing was beautiful and the characters were interesting. The romance was believable and heart-achingly sad at the same time. I loved begin surprised at the end. I just wish the sense of time was more clear –or more that I wish it took place in a different decade with no mention of Grumpy Cat. I also wish I had more closure at the end. I give it an 8/10.

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