Rules for Vanishing
Author: Kate Alice Marshall
Length: 11 hours
Narrator: Jesse Vilinsky, Robbie Daymond, Rob Shapiro
Publisher: Listening Library
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre(s): Young adult, Horror
“Do you want to know where Lucy went?
She went to play the game.
You can play, too.
Find a partner.
Find a key.
Find the road.
You have two days.”
One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca disappeared. Her parents and the police think she ran away with her boyfriend, but Sara knows the truth: they went searching for the road in the woods and the ghostly legend Lucy Gallows. On the one year anniversary of Becca’s disappearance, Sara goes into the woods at midnight — she’s going after Becca. She isn’t going alone, though: her old friends show up to go with her, mostly thinking Sara is crazy and that the road is just local lore. But then the road appears and the shocked teens venture onto it, none of them understanding the horror they’ll encounter along the way. And there’s no turning back.
Rules for Vanishing is told in faux documentary style through interviews, videos, and written witness accounts. For the most part, we follow Sara as she recounts her journey on the road to save her sister. But nothing is truly as it seems. And as Dr. Ashford, the man conducting the interviews, says, “One of them is lying.”
I don’t want to dive too deep into this review—part of the joy of reading this story is being surprised. This is a very twisty, suspenseful novel, so I definitely don’t want to spoil anything. As far as YA horror goes, this is GOOD. The entire book is super spooky and I was creeped out at all times. I got major Silent Hill / Blair Witch vibes. The first scary scene that happens on the road gave me literal chills. After that, I kind of knew what to expect from the horror, so the rest of the scares weren’t necessarily goosebump-inducing, but I was always on edge until the very end. The horror is explicit when it comes to gore and creatures and violence, so read with caution if you’re squeamish.
There are a lot of characters, and at first I found it difficult to tell them all apart. But slowly I think their voices become more solid and unique, and it gets easier. I really liked the variety of representation with the characters — there were queer characters, people of color, a character with a hearing aide, and a character with a stutter. And though I liked all the characters, I never felt too close to anyone other than Sara, Becca, and Anthony. Everyone else felt at arms length, so a lot of the horror and death didn’t hit my heart too hard. I wish I could have connected to the characters a bit more. And speaking of death—this is some savage YA!! Not that I like watching characters die, but a lot of times YA isn’t scary because you know no one will die, or at least not your favorite/the main characters. But in Rules for Vanishing, no one is safe. I liked that unpredictability.
Overall, I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would. Heather, you’ve done it again—I will always end up loving anything you recommend 😅 This was just what I needed for spooky season, though I wish I would have read this sooner because wow was it good. Listening to the audiobook really got me through some slow work days. If you like YA horror with unreliable narrators where no one is safe, you’ll want to pick this one up—and just in time for Halloween 🎃 👻