Title: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 24 September 2019
Genre: Horror | Young Adult
Page extent: 416 pages
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Continuing my exploration into horror, Dahlia at LGBTQReads recommended Rules for Vanishing for my November subscription. It’s probably the first novel I’ve read that really goes into traditional horrory things – terrifying paranormal ghosts and spirits and the like. And I loved it!! It was scary, the format was spectacular, the only thing that let it down was a less than clear ending.
One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca went missing. Everyone thinks she ran off with her boyfriend, but Sara disagrees. She thinks she went to find Lucy Gallows, a girl who vanished 50 years ago. It’s said that in the woods, there is a road, and if you follow the road, you will find Lucy. When a text message floods the town, urging everyone to play ‘the game’ to find Lucy Gallows, Sara knows it’s the only chance she has to find her sister. So she, and a group of friends, go into the woods to find the road and hunt down Lucy and Becca….
My absolute favourite part of Rules for Vanishing was the structure and format. Very similar to another of my recent favourite reads, Into the Drowning Deep, Rules for Vanishing is told through first person POV, alongside interview transcripts, video exercepts, text messages and emails. There’s something about the reader feeling more knowing than the characters that just makes a story infinitely more terrifying to me. The format of Rules for Vanishing really makes this happen. By interspersing the story of the journey with emails, texts and interviews from the future, we learn and see more about the current situation. We’re given the info in these short extracts to make the first person POV more terrifying and it works so well!! There were so many moments I was terrified, particularly in the first half of the novel. The set up of the initial Lucy Gallows myth is really well done, and it really does sound like a traditional small-town legend. I grew up in a small town, and we had a poet who wandered on our local moor and walked through a gateway to the fae.
I enjoyed the death and gore of the first part of the journey as well. To get to Lucy, the group has to travel through seven ‘gates’ on the road to reach her. There are rules to follow, and challenges to pass, and if you don’t….well bad stuff happens. Up until about gate 4, I was loving it. It was very much the Blair Witch, paranormally vibe. After gate 4, it begins to get a bit more fantastical and I found I didn’t quite enjoy that as much. Previously, it had felt very real and I almost thought this could genuinely happen. But, after it left to more fantasy monsters, it lost a bit of the terror.
In addition, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Not only did it go full fantasy with the Dahut storyline, but the ending is very open and I’m still not sure what actually happened?! If anyone has read this book, and has any insights or thoughts, I would love to hear them!
All in all, I really enjoyed Rules for Vanishing. The first half of the book is a terrifyingly creepy paranormal story, with whispers and voices and spirits trying to kill you. The structure and format of the book is so awesome and really helps add to the tension and fear. Whilst I wasn’t happy with the ending, this is still definitely worth a read!