Book Review: The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

the vanishing act cover

View from the window seat:
Minou lives on a tiny island with only her philosopher father, the magician Boxman, his dog No Name, and the Priest. A year ago, her mother disappeared. One day, while fishing with her father, she finds a dead boy on the beach. For three days, the dead boy stays in her mother’s room until the delivery boatmen can come and take him away. Minou, certain that her mother is alive, tries to find the truth through the philosophy of Descartes and through the dead boy’s story.

Minou is a strong narrator. Through her eyes, the reader takes in the small, isolated island that she has lived on her entire life. From her lighthouse room to the painting in the church of the island’s founder Theodora and her goat, the island is wonderfully drawn. Minou’s arc is also wonderfully told, as she struggles to accept what happened to her mother. There isn’t any mystery; the reader knows what happened, but this doesn’t detract from the story as Minou slowly comes to grips with the truth.

After turning the last page, though, I felt…dissatisfied. I wanted more from the story. One thing I couldn’t figure out is where the island was or what war had recently taken place. I think the island is somewhere in Europe, but I’m not sure. This is just a little thing that bothered me, as I like to be able to place things in time and space in my mind. I wanted to know more about what happened to Minou’s parents in the war. I also wanted more about the other characters on the island, Boxman and the Priest. While they’re unique characters, they also felt a bit lacking. However, as the story is told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, I understand why the narration didn’t delve into details. Minou is focused on her mother and the story is very clearly about her need to accept the truth. So I understand, but I still wish I could have more backstory.

Overall impression:
With unique characters and setting, The Vanishing Act is an sad but hopeful story of a little girl’s search for the truth.

Rating:
6

Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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