Discussion: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

1) How does Oliver deals with love, grief, and guilt in Vanishing Girls?

Oliver handles these delicate themes with such grace and eloquence, telling an emotional, heart-pounding story in such a manner that grips both readers’ minds and hearts, and pays due respect to the difficult subject matters with which the book grapples.

2) How does Oliver handles the concept that your emotions alter and augment how you perceive reality and what you believe to be true?

In my opinion, Oliver handles this concept so brilliantly, weaving through the alternating narratives of Nick and Dara, both “before” and “after” the accident and the interspersing news reports. As the reader follows along, they become immersed and embedded in the “minds” and “perspectives” of these sisters, seeing what they see, and truly believing what they believe. With each twist (culminating in the final, mind-blowing twist!), Oliver forces readers to reevaluate the truth they know and the very facts they perceive to be true, causing them to question if what the characters see in front of them is real, or the fullrepresentation of reality.

Oliver also illustrates this concept through the dynamics of Nick and Dara’s relationship. Nick’s love of her sister causes her to perceive their relationship as the perfect relationship between sisters–a friendship, an equal partnership. Though she believes her sister to be prettier and more popular, this does not make her remotely jealous. Nick believes that her sister perceives the relationship similarly and cannot imagine her sister might be angry or envious (let alone that she might have something worthy of Dara’s envy). Dara, on the other hand, perceives their relationship through the eyes of her resentment and jealousy. These emotions drive her to view their relationship as one in which she has always followed Nick around, adoring her, but always in her shadow. They drive Dara to believe she is the “screw-up sister,” while Nick, in contrast, is the “golden girl” of the family.


The portion of analysis below contains spoilers.


  Of course, after discovering the final twist, readers are forced to realize that both the relationship and the events they have been reading about are inherently augmented by the grief and guilt which Nick feels. And that, due to her grief and guilt, Nick’s perception of reality was so drastically altered, as that was the only way she could deal with her emotions. Nick is able to “imagine” that after the accident Dara is envious and angry at Nick and has always been secretly harboring such feelings due to the things Dara said to Nick right before the accident. The things Dara said and the emotions they conjured in Nick forever altered Nick’s perception of her sister, who her sister was, and their real relationship.

3) What literary techniques does Lauren Oliver use to convey the idea that your emotions alter and augment how you perceive reality and what you believe to be true?

Oliver definitely relies heavily on point of view, characterization, foreshadowing, and creating parallels between characters (such as Nick and Sarah Snow) to convey this idea.

4) Let’s talk the title. Is it just playing off the popularity of the title of Gone Girl or is it more significant?


The portion of analysis below contains spoilers.


   I think the title definitely does have a lot more significance, referring not only to the literal disappearance (or “vanishing”) of Madeline Snow and “Dara,” but to the fact that, in order to deal with her grief, Nick “vanishes” into Dara’s [psyche], effectively “becoming” Dara for a moment in time. On Dara’s birthday, when something in Nick causes her to realize that Dara isn’t coming and forces her to face the fact that perhaps Dara isn’t even coming back, the “Dara” portion of Nick’s mind “vanishes” back into Nick, causing Nick’s perception of Dara as a real person, who’s there, with her, to vanish, as well.

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Lila is a 27-year-old college student studying physics and a lover of literature. When she's not busy reading or saving the world through science, Lila can be found singing jazz and blues and obsessing over hedgehogs (a.k.a. the cutest animals in the multiverse!)

One thought on “Discussion: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

  1. This book. Lauren Oliver, skilled novelist that she is, totally caught me off guard with the twist. It was one of those, “Holy crap, now I have to re-read the whole book” moments, and I LOVED that the book made me want to do that.


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