The Vanishing Game is a little different than what we normally read and review here on the blog. The book has a bit of romance, but it's secondary (or thirdly, even) to the mystery and suspense of following the clues and finding out whether or not Jocelyn's twin brother is alive, or has faked his death and gone into hiding.
The book centers around Seale House, a foster home that Jocelyn and Jack lived in when they were children. Living in that house is the stuff of nightmares, and once they got out of the house, Jocelyn tried everything she could to block those memories. Jocelyn and Jack were placed in a new foster home, and lived happily there for awhile until Jack died in a tragic car accident. It's been three weeks, and Jocelyn is barely managing to go on without him. She arrives home from school one day to a letter written from a place she never wanted to see again, and from someone she thought was dead.
While living in Seale House Jocey and Jack became best friends with another boy, Noah, and the three were inseparable. Jack would design these elaborate games, where Noah and Jocey had to follow clues to receive the prize at the end. His code name, Jack December. The letter that Jocey receives is from Jason December, and it's post dated after Jack died. Desperately hoping her brother is really alive, she travels back to Watertown and the awful memories in search of Noah, her childhood friend and the only other person that can help her decipher the clues. Not only must they contend with an unknown enemy following their trail, Jocelyn and Noah must confront their haunting memories and finally lay the ghosts in Seale House to rest. The big question remains, is Jack really alive?
I was actually supposed to read this about a week ago, but I kept hemming and hawing and putting it off. I mistakenly read a few reviews on Goodreads before I started reading, and the excitement I felt sort of waned when I figured out that the romance wasn't the primary storyline. Or even a secondary storyline, really. I finally couldn't put it off any longer and I grudgingly started reading. I was immediately sucked in by the mystery of Jason December. I became so enthralled in fact, that I decided I didn't give a crap about the romance and I was an idiot for looking at other reviews before making up my own mind.
I really, really enjoyed The Vanishing Game. It was sad and heartbreaking, and I can't believe all that Jocelyn had to endure in her short life. Her memories of everything that happened in Seale House were horrifying. My heart broke for these kids, and I think it's tragic that any child should have to live in such an environment. I loved the relationship between the two siblings, and how they stuck together through every hardship life through their way. The depression and utter bleakness that Jocey felt after Jack died was written so well that I felt like I had lost my twin or something. I also liked how Noah and Jocey didn't just jump right back into their old friendship like they hadn't been separated for years. They had some issues to work out first, and the initial awkwardness was a bit more realistic and believable.
The ending. Oh, the ending y'all. I never really could tell whether or not Jack was alive, and I did NOT expect the shocking twist at the end. I never, ever, ever would have guessed the book would turn out the way it did. I'm not one to guess the ending anyway, since I'm just not smart like that, but I don't think anyone could have figured out what turn the book was going to take. The first 3/4 of the book was captivating, but that twist is what pushed The Vanishing Game into a truly great read.
My Summary: This is one of those rare books for me where my focus was more on the story - the mystery, suspense, who is sending the Jack December letters, whether or not Jack is alive - than the individual characters. All the elements of the story blended together and the author has given us a book that you absolutely have to finish or you can't move on with your life. It was nice to have a little break from reading mostly romance novels, and it was a break that I didn't even know I needed. If anything, you have to read this book just so you can read the twist at the end. Be prepared to be amazed!
My Rating: A