Guten Tag Kittens! I don’t know about y’all, but Fall is just starting to make its presence known here in the South. Whatever the calendar might say, it’s been hot as Hades around here and I am loving the 15 degree drop in temperature we got this weekend. When the heat gets too oppressive down here I like to dive in to a read that gives me the heebie jeebies. Thankfully, I won a copy of Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall which cooled me down quick by giving me goosebumps for hours. This YA horror title came out just a few weeks ago and deserves some attention.
Title: Rules for Vanishing
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Author website: http://katemarshallbooks.com/
Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Randomhouse imprint)
Publish date: September 24, 2019
If you’re looking for a YA horror novel going into the haunting season, this one is a good bet. Rules for Vanishing follows two sisters, Sara and Becca, in Briar Glen, MA, in the spring of 2017. Told in the form of interview transcripts from a Dr. Ashford, first-person accounts from a number of teenage participants, and text messaging/email transcripts from the involved teens. One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca disappeared in the woods near the hometown. She was rumored to have been involved in a game related to a local legend about another teenage girl who disappeared in those woods named Lucy Gallows. For some reason, people in town believe that Becca ran away with a boy that she was dating, but Sara doesn’t buy it. She can’t figure out why people aren’t taking the legend seriously, but despite her own doubts, the legend of Lucy Gallows is her only lead, and she’s determined to follow that road in the woods wherever it may lead.
When all of the students at the local high school get a text message challenging them to solve the clues and go to the woods to free Lucy Gallows, many believe that Sara is behind taunt, but a few of her friends from before Becca disappeared are less certain, and they want to be there for Sara in any way they can. So, on the preordained night, the teens meet in the woods and the road appears to them. The rules for the road seem simple: stay with your partner, stay on the road, don’t let go, thirteen steps, get through all of the gates and you’ll be able to leave. The road is not easy and the teens are in for a horrifying trip from which they will not all return.
This read reminded me a lot of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. You’ve got teens in the woods on a magical and terrifying journey where they are in over their heads and being influenced by forces beyond their comprehension. The narrative style of Rules for Vanishing is unique, blending a little of the Blair Witch Project with modern technology to an enthralling effect. The paranoia builds and the reader is on the road just as much as the teens are, trying to figure out who to trust and keeping track of all of the major players and their motives. There’s more than just horror in this story however, as it also addresses the bonds of sisterhood as well as the evolving nature of multiple relationships.
The road gets real pretty fast, and while the copy I’ve got lists the ages as 12 and up, I would probably say 15 and up would be more appropriate. But then again, I’m a scaredy cat who won’t watch horror films and will only read YA horror, nothing more hardcore. The characters are well developed and the setting is richly detailed. The set-up is also there for additional books, focusing more on the mysterious Dr. Ashford than the sisters in this case. The ending is a little ambiguous for my taste, but the storytelling was masterful and I truly didn’t see any of the twists coming. If more titles are coming from this author, I definitely want to read them.
Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers’ Edition of this title from the publisher via BookishFirst with the expectation that I would write an honest review.
2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends. They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.
This one gets a lower lemonade rating because there are some gruesome deaths and there’s a homosexual relationship. Before you get your pitchforks, remember that I am a Southern Librarian talking about the recommend-ability of this book to potential patrons. I loved this book, but I would hesitate to recommend it because of those two things unless I had a clear idea of the patron’s comfort level with those topics.