Title: Watch Me Disappear
Author: Janelle Brown
Year Published: 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller
Obtained: Public Library
Synopsis: Billie Flanagan disappears while hiking alone in the California mountains. A year later, her family, husband Jonathan and daughter Olive, still have trouble coping with her death. Jonathan quit his career as a journalist to write a love memoir about his wife while consistently drinking to deal with the pain, while Olive is slowly isolating herself from her friends and her grades start slipping. Suddenly, Olive starts having visions of her mother, convincing her that Billie is still alive. Both Jonathan and Olive are now on a mission to try to find out what happened to Billie, whether she really died or merely made herself disappear. What they uncover are secrets of a life that doesn’t resemble what they know of Billie, and it will change how they feel about her forever.
I finished this book a few days ago and finally sitting down to write this review. I just really needed to digest this book fully, as it has some difficult parts to deal with. As a whole, this was a great story on family and tragedy and, above all else, truth and honesty. How well do we really know the people we love? There are always three sides to every story, as they say, and this novel does its best to show all of Billie Flanagan’s sides.
The main characters were so lifelike and relatable. Jonathan and Olive are struggling to settle into a life of two rather than three, at best managing to leave the gaping hole in their family where Billie was. Essentially, Billie was the connection between them, and Jonathan and Olive are desperately trying to fill her void unsuccessfully. I really rooted for them throughout the whole novel as they tried to piece their lives back together.
There was a bit of a supernatural element to this novel as well, depending on what you believe personally. Olive has these waking dreams of her mother in certain places, making Olive believe that Billie is still alive. She tries to track down these locations and make sense of what her mother is saying. Her father takes her to a doctor, who obviously trumps it up to a minor head injury that will heal over time. He also prescribes her pills to make the visions ‘go away,’ in a sense. But Olive’s visions magically stop right after she finds what she believes her mother wanted her to find, and I stand beside Olive in her belief that these visions were given to her for a reason.
That Shocking Twist and the Ending
Ok, so there was a twist at the end (which is usual for a thriller of this nature), and I was extra happy that I didn’t guess the outcome! I usually judge the ending based on whether or not it was predictable, but I did not see this one coming. That being said, although I was glad that it remained a mystery to me, it didn’t give me a serious OMG moment that I look for in thrillers. The ending was unpredictable, but a bit bland for my taste.
It took me a little while to get into the novel but I don’t blame the book at all. I haven’t been very focused on reading the past few weeks and it’s been difficult getting into any book. As the pages kept turning, though, it was easy to get hooked into this story. The writing was very well done.
One thing I noticed was the narrative is written in present tense. At first, I wasn’t very keen on it. It’s hard to write a novel in the present tense and stick with it, but the author did. What also struck me near the middle was that, when the narrator brought up past events relevant to the storyline, they were written in the past tense. This helped me differentiate between what was going on in the narrative and what was relevant in the past to the narrative.
Overall, it was an excellent read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in a good thriller. There was even a double-twist at the end that I appreciated a lot. This really changed my attitude towards the main characters in the very last chapter. Pick it up if you can!
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (I wish I was more shocked by the ending.)
Storyline: 5 stars (The plot was well thought-out and made for a great story.)
Characters: 5 stars (I got very involved in their lives and experiences.)
Setting: 4 stars (There was nothing too special about the California setting.)
Reading Pace: 4.5 stars (Like I mentioned, I don’t blame the book to an extent.)
Memorable Quote: “Maybe this is why they say love it blind: Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.”