Published by Viking Books for Young Readers, Walker Books Australia on September 24, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Horror
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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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.
Because October is for creepy things and Halloween, Rules for Vanishing caught my eye as a YA horror book to pick up. Set on a creepy, mysterious path where strange things happen and people go missing, I had no idea what was in store for me as I kept on reading.
So much creepiness
It turns out I got a LOT more than I bargained for, from many hauntings, disappearances, monsters, a scary abandoned town, a haunted house, and even huge spiders. There are also many, many ghosts that Sara and her 8 friends will encounter, all for an adventure to save her adopted sister. So I can definitely say, Rules for Vanishing definitely satisfies when it comes to the scary department! There’s also a super creepy legend about how the road was formed that you’ll get to discover, and it definitely leaves a lasting impression.
I had to read this one during daylight hours (and also, super super fast) so that I could reach the end as fast as I could without prolonging the experience into the night. Otherwise if I didn’t see how the end played out, my brain would probably do it for me in the form of nightmares *shudders*.
Told in mixed narrative format
The fun part about Rules for Vanishing is that it’s told in a mixed narrative, filled with interview formats, extracted phone footage, and a host of unreliable narrators. This made it really fun to put the pieces together to find out what really happened to Sara’s sister Becca, and also her friends that kept on going missing on the road. The rules for navigating the road, plus the seven gates they must go through to survive were simple – don’t let go of each other, and never leave the road. These rules and the set up made the journey all the more thrilling – as they are thrown with monsters and frightening challenges – you’re always wondering what’s in store for them on the other side.
The twists definitely deliver, and when you think the scariness has subsided, it will throw another curveball. It’s just super scary throughout which is what made it so compelling. If you like that sort of thing, of course.
Lots of forgettable characters
I do think some of the characterisation left a bit to be desired however, as I couldn’t really name or describe many of the defining attributes of her many friends. There is some minor diversity, with queerness (lesbian & bisexuality rep) and Becca being Asian, but it doesn’t really play a huge part in the story overall. It was wondering to have a character who stuttered, I wasn’t entirely pleased to see this character killed off soon after, implying that their condition was a liability. In the camera footage, it also describes many of the characters as being white – which I can see was an attempt at not assuming that everyone is actually white, but given they actually were…it made it kind of awkward.
Given I don’t actually read that many horror books, I don’t think my weak heart could take it on a regular basis, Rules for Vanishing definitely satisfied when it came to the scary department! If you’re looking for a super atmospheric, creepy read for Halloween, definitely pick this one up – you won’t be disappointed. But don’t say I didn’t warn you when I say read this during daylight hours….
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to Walker Books Australia for sending me a review copy!
Rules for Vanishing is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99 or from The Book Depository.
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Glad you liked the book! This was my first mixed media book and I really enjoyed it. I loved seeing a character with stutter (if I recall my notes correctly, I thought it was a stereotypical stutter? Speaking from experience, I mean), but yeah, I wish they had survived (also forgot they died).
The spooky element is always something I tell people to look out for in this book!
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Ahh great review Jeann! I read this during the summer and it was so creepy, I had to stop reading several times. It’s the scariest book I’ve read recently! I think where it lost points for me is the second half of the book, where it felt draggy for me. The characters are a lot, but I enjoyed them all. I think my favorite was Jeremy- he didn’t have to come but he still showed up and constantly the voice of reason throughout the story. Oh I think he use a hearing aid if I’m remembering correctly but it doesn’t affect the story much and didn’t become the whole focus of his character, which is nice to see.
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