Isn’t it funny how people at opposite ends of the spectrum can have such a close and familiar relationship, despite their differences? Such is the case with sisters Nick and Dara Warren. Nick is the older and ‘more sensible’ of the two, while Dara is the life of the party- dramatic and outgoing. They have always been the best of friends-completely inseparable- and with only ‘eleven months and three days’ between them, know each other’s thoughts, feelings and emotions as clearly as if they have a physical (almost twin-like) bond.
However, when Dara starts dating Nick’s best friend Parker, things between the sisters become slightly awkward and uncomfortable, and their differences become a little more pronounced. They start to realise that they don’t know each other as well as they thought they did, and this realisation is confronting to face. But it isn’t until a terrible car accident occurs that the bond between the girls is shattered. Suddenly Dara isn’t speaking to Nick and both girls have to deal with the broken emotions and physical pain that they are left with after the crash. To make matters worse, their parents- who split up just before the accident- are each coping with the situation in their own ways, and neither way is particular healthy or beneficial for anyone.
With the sisters now estranged, it seems as though there is no way to salvage their once strong relationship. Even Dara’s disappearance on her birthday is blown off by Nick as an ill attempt to gain attention. But soon Nick can’t help but be concerned, especially when she remembers that another young girl has recently disappeared without a trace. The manhunt for nine-year-old Madeline Snow has reached national headlines, and Nick worries that Dara has also vanished in similar circumstances. Despite Dara being over eight years older than Madeline, Nick becomes convinced that the two disappearances are linked, and sets out to search for Dara. Will Nick find her before it’s too late? Will the girls ever be reunited? And if she is found, will Dara be able to put her differences aside and reconcile with her once-beloved sister?
Lauren Oliver has written a complex novel about the relationship between two sisters and their efforts to understand both themselves and each other. The narratives in this book skip all over the place in the lead up to the finish, with constant switches between the characters of Nick and Dara. Oliver also spaces out the action in terms of timeframes before and after the accident- so you could be reading from Dara’s perspective before the accident in one chapter and soon after be reading from Nick’s perspective in the months following the accident. Although this concept makes the book sound a little confusing, it really helps to keep readers moving through the story, as they learn more about the individual characters and how they were shaped by the events that occurred. As for the ending of the novel, some people may see the twist coming. For others, the last few chapters might be a surprise. Nonetheless, this is a compelling narrative that is sure to make you skip back through the pages long after you have finished, as you search for the clues that lead to the ultimate conclusion.