I’ve shared quite a few reviews of mystery thrillers on Writing Whimsy, but today I’m sharing little reviews on two young adult options, Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams* and Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver*. The first is from an author I’ve never heard from with a plot I found intriguing, while the second is an author I adore with a storyline I was less sure about. Time to share my final impressions!
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As much as I love a mystery thriller, Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams is really just about the thrill. This intense novel starts with a Ruth Carver, an incredibly competitive girl who trains horses, waking up with a concussion in the back of a pickup truck. She soon learns that she’s been kidnapped by a man who claims to punish bad girls, and he’s made Ruth his next victim. Ruth manages to escape, but it quickly becomes a game of cat-and-mouse in the wilderness as captive may become captor.
While I appreciated the intensity of the story line, I was honestly not a fan of Ruthless. I didn’t really feel like it added anything new or unexpected, and it was more just like time passing with a list of impossible obstacles Ruth has to overcome. Often, the solutions were a little too convenient or improbable to really be satisfying. There is also supposed to be character development as Ruth confronts what her captor saw in her, but even though she is in an awful situation I had a difficult time relating to her.
Overall, I felt like Ruthless was all the exciting bits of a movie, that has a really intense premise but lacked the components–mainly depth in character and story–that would have made the book really satisfying to read.
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Even if I haven’t been as in love with her latest books, one author I will always read is Lauren Oliver. Regardless of what she is saying, her words are always stunning. She has an amazing gorgeous way of describing things, and I swear I would read her grocery list. So it’s obvious why I picked up Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, even if the storyline seemed a bit predictable.
Vanishing Girls is the story of sisters, Dara and Nick, who were once inseparable. It’s the ugly duckling story of the outgoing, beautiful sister (in this case, Dara, the younger sister) and the shy, bookish one. When a car accident leaves Dara’s face scared, Nick feels totally responsible. Then Dara vanishes on her birthday, and with another girl–nine-year-old Madeline Snow–missing too, Nick becomes convinced the two disappearances are linked and sets off to find her sister, before it’s too late.
As always, Oliver’s writing is gorgeous, and that element of the story had me engaged. I love the little moments she captures, the tiny shards of emotion. The relationship between Dara and Nick, although one that is seen often in young adult books, feels authentic. However, the main issue was the twist to the story, which just felt expected rather than exciting. If Oliver is going to use such an overused twist in Vanishing Girls it has to be flawlessly executed, and even then, it’s unlikely to win me over. Unfortunately, in this case it did not. I’ll still be reaching for every Lauren Oliver book going forward, perhaps just a bit more cautiously.
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Since both Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams–in particular–and Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver need a little help, I’m going to recommend a totally different book instead. You absolutely must read Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, if you haven’t already. Before I Fall is the story of a teenage girl who continues to relive her last day alive, and it’s absolutely flawless.
What have you been reading lately?