Vanishing Girls

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Vanishing Girls Book Poster Image
Plenty of twists in exciting, mature mystery.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information about cybercrime, the dangers of sharing sexy photos online, and tactics adults use to prey on teens.

Positive Messages

There's a valuable message here about what happens when you try to hold on to negative emotions and continue acting as if things are OK. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nick may not always make smart choices, but she is loyal to her sister and goes to great -- even dangerous -- lengths to try to protect her. Ultimately, she ends up being a hero -- and saving herself.


Readers learn that a car crash leaves Dara with broken bones and scars. A girl dies in a thrill-ride accident. A girl is missing. A man drugs teen girls and sells compromising pictures of them online. He later chases a girl when she begins to suspect him.


There's a love triangle involving Nick, Dara, and their best friend, Parker, and there are some steamy scenes. Spin the bottle and strip poker are mentioned. Dara has condoms in her room and lewdly describes a boy as being sexually attractive. Nick makes plans to go away with her boyfriend but later breaks up with him when he suggests they have sex (sort of joking, because there are rumors that they had sex anyway). Nick imagines her father's girlfriend walking around naked. Nick gets caught skinny-dipping with a 20-year-old.  


Lots of mature words including variations of "s--t" and "f--k" as well as "ass," "bitch," "dips--t," "God," "hell," and "piss."


Lots of suburban trappings, including Big Gulp, ChapStick, Coca-Cola, Cool Whip, CVS, Diet Coke, Gas N' Go, iPad, iPhone, Jameson, Law & Order, Pop-Tarts, Southern Comfort, 7-Eleven, Sharpie, Suburban, Surf Siders, Toyota, Walmart, Wayfarer, YouTube, Zippo.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen characters, including the protagonists, drink alcohol, including brand-name hard alcohol. Nick covers for Dara when she finds marijuana and white residue in her room. Their mom takes sleeping pills. Characters smoke, and girls work for a private club inside a bar; they are drugged without their knowledge. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lauren Oliver's Vanishing Girls is a mystery with mature content, including drinking and drug use, strong language (including variations of "s--t" and "f--k"), and some steamy make-out scenes. There's also a really bad car accident, a missing child, and a plot line about adults trading in sexual pictures of underage teens. Nick may not always make smart choices, but she's loyal to her sister and goes to great -- even dangerous -- lengths to try to protect her. There's a valuable message here about what happens when you try to hold on to negative emotions and continue acting as if things are OK. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byRainbowNova840 July 12, 2015

I really dislike Lauren Oliver's books.

Don't read this book if you don't want to read about or come across:

1. Horrible bratty teenagers.

2. Cursing.

3. No plot line.

4. Strippers and... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byicy05 July 12, 2020


Like the title says, this book was fantastic! While, yes, it contains some mature themes, Vanishing Girls was an astonishing read. I personally love Lauren Oliv... Continue reading

What's the story?

Sisters Dara and Nick grew up close, always palling around with their neighbor Parker. But their parents divorced when they were teens, and Dara got wild while Nick remained the (mostly) good girl. Nick doesn't remember how she crashed the car, which left Dara scarred and not speaking to her sister, but this summer, now that they're living under the same roof, she hopes to win her back. But as the summer heats up, she stumbles into her sister's secret life, learns how it might be connected to a missing local girl, and discovers some big things she's been unable to admit to herself. 

Is it any good?

Teens may find VANISHING GIRLS a little hard to get into. Author Lauren Oliver reveals the story from both sisters' perspectives, and she includes flashbacks, diary entries, local news articles, and emails between the girls' parents and their psychiatrist, and her nonlinear storytelling style takes some getting used to. Once the mystery picks up -- and Nick starts to figure out what her sister has gotten mixed up in and how 9-year-old Madeline Snow might be involved -- readers will race toward the conclusion. And, while the big-twist ending may be a bit far-fetched, it's certainly fun. Readers will enjoying reading the book again, once they -- and Nick -- know the truth behind the sisters' story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the risks of posting sexy pictures online, as well as about cybercrime and tactics adults use to prey on teens. When should you talk to your kid about using social sites and apps responsibly?

  • Were you surprised by the twists and turns, or did you find them predictable? At what point did you begin piecing together what actually happened?

  • Nick's psychiatrist thinks she doesn't express her negative emotions enough and that this is the cause of some serious trouble. What are some healthy ways to express feelings?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and suspense

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