Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Release Day Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Rating: 2 Stars
I should have fallen under the spell of The Vanishing Season. I love a quiet, slow, introspective novel that is primarily character-driven. Combine that with Jodi Lynn Anderson's melodic prose and the result is a miracle, the way Tiger Lily is. The Vanishing Season, however, despite containing elements that I would have usually fallen head-over-heels for, somehow managed to keep me at a distance. Its cold, unemotional stance never allowed me to fall for its story and, unfortunately, this remains one of my most disappointing reads of the year.
I didn't make it too much of a secret that I loved Tiger Lily back when it came out and, similarly, I didn't make it much of a secret that I expected to love The Vanishing Season when it released. With its synopsis promising a murder mystery, ghosts, and small town setting, I really couldn't fathom how it could possibly go wrong. Well, here's how: mismarketing. Seriously, whoever wrote the synopsis for this novel needs to buy themselves a copy of The Vanishing Season, actually read it, and then do the world a favor by resigning.
In reality, The Vanishing Season is the story of Maggie, our unassuming protagonist, who moves into a small town and befriends the beautiful Pauline and her childhood friend, Liam, who is utterly besotted with her. Maggie hears stories of girls in nearby towns who are mysteriously murdered but, make no mistake, this is not a murder mystery novel. Anderson, in no capacity, focuses on this background plot line throughout the course of her narrative and The Vanishing Season very firmly remains an intriguing character study. Admittedly, there is a ghost, but more on that later.
Now, I am all for character studies. Courtney Summers's novels are all, in my opinion, intense character studies of her multiple protagonists, just as Tiger Lily managed to be an in-depth analysis of Peter and Tiger Lily's doomed romance. The Vanishing Season looks closely at the dynamics of these three friends--Maggie who is falling for Liam who is hopelessly in love with Pauline who cares for no one. It is a love triangle, but admittedly an interesting one. I didn't quite mind exploring the changing dynamics between these three, at least not at first, but as the novel wore on and certain circumstances came to pass, I grew irritated, mainly because nothing much happens in this book with the exception of this strange love conundrum. The Vanishing Season is a slow, slooooow novel and I'm not sure I ever even fully got into it in the first place.
Every chapter finishes off with a first-person account from the ghost who resides in the home Maggie has just moved in but, nevertheless, this is not a ghost story either. Much like how Tiger Lily was narrated from Tinker Bell's perspective, parts of this novel are narrated from the ghost's perspective and she looks in on these lives. I practically skimmed these sections in the beginning, though they later became the most interesting part of the narrative. Ultimately, however, I find it difficult to summon up much feeling for any part of this story--forgive me, readers, for this apathetic review.
What I do feel quite strongly about, however, is the ending of this novel. For those of you who don't already know, I love ambiguous, unlikable, and tragic endings. Sure, a happily-ever-after gets me smiling every time but a tragedy gets me thinking long after. Where Tiger Lily concluded on a bittersweet, brooding note, however, The Vanishing Season ends in such a way that the reader is left distraught. Anderson's novel lacks true meaning. We've stuck with these characters for so long through such a meandering, tiresome plot only to have the ending reflect the cruel twist of fate when karma doesn't work out and bad things happen to good people. Thus, it isn't an ending I felt added to the meaning of the novel, of my life, or of the world as a whole.
Every book, in my eyes, should have a purpose; a goal or reason for being written. Maybe it's just written to entertain--which, trust me, this book was not written to do as its so dull--or it's written to express a theme or a belief, but the conclusion of this novel only further detracts from this story because of its inability to convey a strong, wholesome message. Perhaps there are gems of wisdom weaved into this conclusion, but I definitely missed them.
The Vanishing Season failed to inspire feeling and, for a character-driven tale, that only spells demise. Its plot disengaged, its characters failed to compel, and its conclusion left me devoid of much hope for our universe. Thus, I really can't say I recommend this one at all. In fact, I'm going to pick up my well-worn hardcover of Tiger Lily from my shelves--I seem to have forgotten why I loved Jodi Lynn Anderson so much in the first place.