The Vanishing Season
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Original Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Length: 256 pages
Source: I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my opinion.
Format Read In: Advanced Reader’s Copy
View from the Traffic Light:
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.
Three things you should know about The Vanishing Season:
1. The writing is beautiful and atmospheric. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me feel so cold before.
2. That blurb up there is one of the most misleading blurbs ever and it makes me angry.
3. If I were going to describe The Vanishing Season in one word, I would pick aimless.
I always try to review a book for what it is, not for what I might want it to be. It makes sense to review a contemporary as a contemporary, and not complain about lack of dragons. That’s just common sense. But what about in a case like The Vanishing Season, where the blurb given from the publisher is so off-course the actual book it makes me want to take to a punching bag?
This book is not a mystery. This book is utterly lacking in suspense, and it’s not trying to be that kind of story. It’s not about ghost, not really. It’s not a mystery even though that’s what the synopsis points to and what I was expecting. Publishers, you really do yourselves no favors with those misleading blurbs.
There is a ghost in this book. She is not creepy or scary. She comments on things from time to time and seems rather pointless(except to point out how beautiful Anderson’s writing is, which I can totally get behind). There is a mystery in this book of the vanishing girls, but it’s not the main focus at all. In fact, it’s such a backdrop to the novel I don’t know why it had to be included at all. So yes, The Vanishing Season is not at all what you would expect based on the blurb, and that hurts this book a lot. Would I have liked it better if I had known what I was getting in to? I’m not sure.
I do know that even if I had a better idea of what this story was actually about–which is a mostly contemporary coming-of-age story with romance with a slight paranormal twist(and when I say slight, I mean a slight twist. The kind that only barely registers), I would still think the plot of this book completely aimless. I never thought I could use that word to describe such a short book, but there never felt to be a build-up to something. Maggie moves to the county with her parents and becomes friends with Pauline and Liam. There’s some love triangle things and some coming-of-age-things. And that’s the plot, really.
In some weird ways, the barely-there plot of The Vanishing Season reminds me a bit of the plot of Winger(though completely different in tone, style, and characters, of course)–a bunch of unrelated incidents that seem to slowly be building up to something at the end. The difference, however, is that Winger had that subtle backdrop of build-up I found The Vanishing Season to completely lack.
In fact, that lack of build-up to the ending made me feel like the last 10% of The Vanishing Season was jarring and out of place. All along, I had been reading a slow but beautiful book where nothing happened, and the ending didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the book. In fact, at once point someone is arrested as the Door county killer, then released on lack of evidence. In the end, we find out that he had not been the killer but that the killer was someone from out of the area who later died in a manner completely unrelated to his own murders. Why even bother with this then? The killings don’t affect the main characters personally. It’s little more than a useless backdrop in an already aimless plot, and completely unnecessary.
Despite my mostly indifference to The Vanishing Season, I’ll end on a positive note and point out that Anderson’s prose is absolutely beautiful and the only reason I kept reading. She knows how to write atmosphere. I read this book on a warm, April day in Texas but I’ve never had a book make me feel so cold. I felt I was in Door county on the ice with the snow falling the entire time.
While beautifully written, I didn’t find The Vanishing Season to have a compelling or intriguing story. What I thought was going to be the main mystery was barely even a dot on the course of this book. I enjoy slow moving books, but I still like my slow moving books to have some sort of plot, which The Vanishing Season was mostly lacking. There were so many frustrating unresolved issues for such a short book and I felt a lack of disconnect with pretty much everything except the writing. 2/5 cupcakes.