Book review: Vanished, by E.E. Cooper

Cooper VanishedCooper, E. E. (May 12, 2015 publication). Vanished. 320 pages. Katherine Tegen Books. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0062293909

When popular girls Beth and Britney invited new Kalah into their circle, Kalah thought she had it made. But the only thing worse than being the new girl recovering from OCD is being the new girl who is secretly in love with one of her two best friends. Kalah’s crush on Beth spins out of control as Beth unexpectedly disappears and Britney commits suicide in the intervening weeks. Now, with Beth unreachable and Britney gone, Kalah has to figure out how to keep her life together while she slowly realizes that nothing is as it seems. A deep mystery resides at the heart of her circle’s unraveling, and Kalah has to untangle the deceptions if she wants to survive.

E. E. Cooper’s Vanished is like Pretty Little Liars with a smaller cast. The entire book hinges on the idea of how far popular girls will go to protect their turf. Kalah, even though she is friends with Beth and Britney, is the new girl who is on the outside looking in on their relationship. The reader is right there with her as she learns that her world was not nearly as orderly or pleasant as it seems. And as she starts to figure it out, the reader is engrossed in the tale.

But despite this, I had several issues with this novel. The first few chapters are a confusing jumble of a story begun in medias res. Characters are constantly referring to situations, events, and character traits that the reader hasn’t been introduced to yet, and it feels confusing. Although this passes, it’s a struggle in the opening scenes.

Additionally, this book has some major pacing issues. By the time that the main story of Beth’s disappearance and Britney’s suicide has been established, the book is halfway over. And Kalah spends another quarter of the book mourning the losses and trying to figure out how to put her life back together. It’s only truly the last 80 pages where the pacing picks up and the book starts to feel tightly-plotted and gripping. And that last quarter is so good…

But, I finished this book, and I immediately checked online to see if it was the start of a series. The book ends with the story grossly unresolved. I was left with no idea whether Kalah was crazy or had figured it all out. She never had a showdown with the newly back Britney to accuse her of Beth’s murder. By the end of the novel, Britney has suffered no consequences for her actions. She literally gets away with murder. And if that’s the way the author wanted it, that’s a fine choice. But the consistent hints that Kalah is waiting for the moment to pounce makes it feel like the book is missing the last five chapters that would have resolved everything in a satisfying conclusion. As a reader, I felt like I hit the Acknowledgements page right when I was looking for the payoff.

This book is recommended for people who enjoy young adult literature set in a real world that isn’t terribly realistic. Fans of Pretty Little Liars or similar series will be well pleased.

-John Mack Freeman

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