Title: Rules for Vanishing
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Cover Illustrator: Leo Nickolls
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Teen/young adult fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, Horror
Book format: Paperback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  Once a year, a road appears in the woods at midnight and the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons, inviting those who are brave enough to play her game.  If you win, you escape with your life.  But if you lose…
It’s almost a year since Becca went missing.  Everyone else has given up searching for her, but her sister, Sara, knows she disappeared while looking for Lucy Gallows.  Determined to find her, Sara and her closest friends enter the woods.  But something more sinister than ghosts lurks on the road, and not everyone will survive.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  I really don’t know what to say after finishing this story, it just wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be.  Sara Donoghue’s sister Becca disappeared a year ago after following a spooky road that opens up only once a year in the woods. Sara’s determined to find her and so are some of her friends, but the road has rules and if you break them you may not survive.

This story starts off very interesting and exciting, presented in a different way to most books, as it’s like a case file of notes from a Dr Ashford. Each chapter is either an exhibit, an interview excerpt or a written statement by Sara. The majority of the chapters are these written statements which make most of the book feel like a first person narrative of Sara’s experience but to have the different types of chapter styles mixed in from the start made this book feel interesting and I have to admit at first, I liked this.

Rules for Vanishing book page image one
©The Strawberry Post

After getting to know some of the teenagers a little, the story moves on and Sara and some other teenagers start their journey down this mysterious road that appears in the middle of the woods. Unfortunately this is where I first stumbled in reading this as there were a lot of teens to remember and I had difficulty in remembering who was who. A lot of eerie things start happening to them as soon as they reach the first gate on this road. I won’t go into the details of what happens but a lot of creepy and horror style things happen, encounters with some strange creatures and things I can only describe as really creepy/eerie. Although some people reading might feel a bit spooked out/scared at these I couldn’t help but enjoy the eerie atmosphere this book takes on as I just love creepy stories like these. However, despite some really good descriptions of some creatures and some of what happens, I did find it difficult to connect with the story and characters a lot of the time.

Although the writing style is generally good and the descriptions of some of the creepy things and the overall plot is one I did enjoy, I just never felt as spooked out/scared as I should have been, or really into the story as a whole. Some of the descriptions are so detailed and yet at other times something happens so quickly that I’m left trying to work out what had just happened. The story is intended to be a little bit hazy in places, and Sara’s written statements are supposed to sound a bit lost like this especially the further you read on in the tale, but because of this style of writing I was left feeling less connected to what was happening. This disconnection got worse towards the end of the story when the chapters kept switching between first person statements to text message transcripts, video transcripts, etc. I’m sure it was intended to feel exciting, like watching a movie, but it just left me feeling distanced from the characters, and left me unsatisfied with the ending of the tale.

The ending is a strange one, I won’t spoil it by saying say what happens, but I can’t help but feel disappointed with how it ended. It’s the sort of story that keeps you guessing as to what’s going to happen right until the end, with a good set of twists towards this last part, but then when the last pages of the story finally happen I’m left with this sort of open ending and no idea what ultimately happened to the characters. It’s a shame because I do enjoy stories where there are some unanswered questions at the end, or a bit of a mystery, but this story felt so confusing and like it just ended without a proper ending, that I’m left feeling so disappointed after finishing this book.

The story is an eerie and spooky one with some quite detailed descriptions of some creepy things including some deaths and some horrific creatures that I think some younger more sensitive teens might not enjoy (although for fans of such things they are good!). There is occassional swearing in the book too with the f and s swear words used although this really isn’t very often.

Overall I did enjoy the idea of this tale and I like the way it was written. There are moments that are truly creepy, and some descriptions of some eerie places and creatures that I just loved, but as for actually scary? I haven’t really felt that emotion while reading this book even though it’s probably supposed to leave you feeling creeped out/scared. I did enjoy the main plot and the twists towards the end, but ecause of that unsatisfying ending I just didn’t like it and I don’t like books that end in this way so that’s why my score is ultimately only a 2. :/

Do you enjoy thriller/horror stories?  What about books with an open ending that keeps you guessing as to what really happened?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂