Thursday, September 12, 2019

ARC Review: Rules For Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Title: Rules For Vanishing
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416
Add to Goodreads

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister--at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her--and who won't make it out of the woods?

It's been exactly one year since Sara's sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn't know whether her former friends no longer like her...or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to "play the game" and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca--before she's lost forever. And even though she's hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends--and their cameras--following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

I picked up Rules For Vanishing at ALA this summer when I spotted the spooky cover. When I saw the comparison to The Blair Witch Project, all bets were off. I had to have this book! I didn't know much about Rules For Vanishing other than that several friends told me it was extremely creepy. It definitely is that!

Becca is the MC of this story set a year after her sister's disappearance. She and a group of estranged friends decide to go back to the location of the mysterious road they've all heard stories about to see if it will appear. When it does, they set off not knowing exactly what's in store but determined to find Becca's sister and bring her home. This is a more character focused horror novel and, while I did enjoy the characters, that's really not why I pick up a horror book.

Right off the bat I will say that this is one of the most terrifying YA books I've read in a long time, at least until the last little bit. I am not claustrophobic in the sense of fearing small spaces, but I have a fear of being trapped in any place with no way out. Cruise ships, as much as I love them, freak me out because there's no way off until it docks. I had the same feeling with the road in this book. Once the characters became trapped on the road I was so physically uncomfortable that I had to put the book down at times. I loved it!

I really enjoyed the writing style the author used! Rules For Vanishing is a mix of your standard narrative, interviews, and documents. It's a style that I've enjoyed in the past and would love to see more of in the future. It made this an extremely quick and tense read.

Where this story went wrong for me was the inclusion of a ton of mythology extending beyond the road. I really didn't think it needed so much backstory and explanation. Honestly, that's where horror books often go wrong for me. Without spoiling anything, there's a tonal shift towards the end and the horror changes to something altogether different. I know that a lot of people enjoyed the way this book ended, but it ruined the horror a bit for me and I really wish the story ended with the road.

Rules For Vanishing was a quick and super scary read, at least until the last several chapters. I do wish that the focus had remained on the road, but the shift definitely didn't ruin my reading experience. I highly recommend picking this one up this October if you're in the market for something spooky!