Emily Bain Murphy
HMH Books for Young Readers
Published July 4, 2017
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About The Disappearances
Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.
Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.
No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.
As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.
I loved the sort of ethereal, powerful descriptions that filled this story. Aila won me over right away, as did most of the other characters in the book. I liked that though it had a historical setting, it’s not a historical novel. It definitely has a fantasy/mystery feel to it.
The story unravels slowly, but picks up steam as it goes. There are a lot of elements to set up before the big push that sets off the major conflict. I liked trying to piece together the connections between the families from Sterling and Aila’s family and the mysterious man whose story we also follow through the novel.
Another great element to this tale is the way works of Shakespeare tie into the mystery. I liked the way the author used those familiar stories in a fresh and different way here to add an unusual flare to The Disappearances.
While I wouldn’t at all describe this as a dystopian tale, I feel like it would appeal to readers who like old-school, classic dystopian novels, like The Giver. Something about the remote, aloof town made me think of Jonas’s world. This might make a great book for kids aging out of middle grade and into young adult literature. While there are a couple of creepy scenes, it’s a pretty clean story overall. See below for more specific content information.
Takes place in a small town in America during World War II.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Brief kissing, some feelings of attraction between a girl and boy.
A curse hangs over three towns. Every seven years, something disappears and all the people from the towns become unable to experience it. For instance, in the town, no one can see any reflections on windows, water surfaces, or in mirrors.
One character (an adult) takes an interest in a dark science experiment. Initially he tests his theories on mice, and at first feels badly about the suffering he causes them. Gradually, he stops feeling any remorse for them, and when it’s time to test his experiment on humans, he has no qualms about testing on an unwilling participant. The descriptions are more dark than violent, but definitely creepy. It’s not a major part of the story, but it creates a strong impression.
Inventors have found some substances (ground roots, etc.) which seem to temporarily reverse the effects of the Disappearances or to enhance natural human abilities. For instance, one substance allows you to run fast enough to run across the surface of water.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.