Kalah remains one of the most complicated, well-written, and all-around discussable characters I’ve ever come across in YA. If you thought she was unreliable in Vanished, she goes far, far deeper down the hole of reliability here. Her voice remains as strong as ever and the mystery she pursues with single-minded intensity is as intriguing as ever. It’s almost like reading two books: one in which what she’s relaying is the truth and one in which her perceptions are altered by her refusal to take her OCD and anxiety medication. You can be a very different person without your meds!
The plot remains fast-paced and absording as well, perhaps even moreso than before because Kalah is trying to prove something this time instead of find someone. Every single night, I intended to read just one more chapter before I went to sleep. Without fail, I’d read five chapters instead and wake up the next morning tired from my thoughts racing. I don’t regret a thing about it and I can’t imagine you will either if the same thing happened when you read Vanished.
What Left Me Wanting:
Unfortunately, the ending puts a damper on the excitement with its possibly dangerous message about medication. Throughout Vanished and Avenged, Kalah stopped taking the medication prescribed for her anxiety and other mental health issues. She “didn’t like how they made her feel” and she felt they kept her from seeing what she wanted to in her pursuit of justice for Beth. This would have been a great point on which to discuss Kalah’s mental health and reliability, but the end of the novel justifies her refusal to take the medication she was prescribed for a good reason. The ending also creates major characterization issues, but it’s impossible to go into them without giving away the ending.
Don’t skip your meds just because you hate how they make you feel. You either learn to deal with that because the “before meds” picture was much worse or you work with your doctor to find meds that work better for you. Oddly, even though this book came with the ending I feared most, I wasn’t as angry as I expected to be. I’m still disappointed and overly wordy about it, but I suppose I’d prepared myself for this.
Though its ending raises more issues than it should, the Vanished duology and Avenged especially will keep readers glued to the pages and questioning Kalah until the very end. Before long, I plan to have both novels sitting on my shelf of favorites in my home. In case you’re inspired to write a novel with an unreliable narrator, this is the duology that will show you how to do it well!
*twisty and unpredictable