I received an advanced review copy of Watch me Disappear from the publisher thru Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I began the first chapter of Janelle Brown’s Watch Me Disappear, I was unimpressed. The section was lacking the thrill I needed to turn the page. So, I set it down.
I returned to Watch me Disappear just yesterday, and found that I soon couldn’t drop it. The book consistently improves in excitement and quality from its lackluster first chapter. Though it mirrors Gone Girl in some ways, it has a bigger heart than most mystery novels.
It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. Billie’s husband and teenage daughter cope with her death the best they can: Jonathan drinks, Olive grows remote.
But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love
What I liked:
What I loved most about this story was that it was told through the life of a very likeable and realistic teenage girl. Olive has to deal with the disappearance of her mother and the stress of high school at the same time. She is passionate about the environment, and like most teenagers, confused about her identity and sexuality. Olive’s “visions” of her mother add a supernatural element to the novel that is surprisingly believable. She pushes onward, though everyone around her doubts her visions and belief that her mother is alive.
The many different leads and twists in the novel made me question my theories after each chapter. I couldn’t stop reading until I knew what had truly happened to Billie. I nearly finished the entire book in one sitting, I was so completely determined to get to the end.
What I didn’t like:
The actual writing style of Watch me Disappear solely serves to move the plot along. It’s not poorly written but also not well-written at the same time, and left me wanting more depth.
Billie’s rebellious nature and unhappiness in her role as a mother were interesting qualities to me, which could have been explored much more. At times, her “lost years” and anarchist acts seemed repetitive and cliche. Her life should have been detailed in more depth in order to explain why she would possibly choose to disappear and abandon her family.
These days, many authors are trying to write the next Gone Girl. Watch me Disappear did seem to mirror Gone Girl’s plot at times, but it was unsuccessful at creating the same depth or cultural commentary as the popular novel.
Overall: While Watch me Disappear is not the most unique or well-written mystery novel, it’s easy to get attached to its likable characters. It touches on themes of motherhood, coming-of-age, family, and love. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about mysteries and family secrets.