Book Review: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, Helen Grant
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First edition (August 10, 2010)
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Age: marketed as YA in the U.K.; Adult in the U.S.
Rating: 3 stars

First sentence: "My life might have been so different if I had not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded!"

While the first sentence is pithy and attention grabbing, the story itself quickly slows to a methodical (dare I say German) pace. Pia, our 10+ year old narrator, gives us her account of the mysterious kidnappings that occurred in 1998 as she remembers life in her small German town of Bad Munstereifel. While Katharina Linden and other girls are disappearing from the town, Pia, whose parents are beginning to drift apart, and her only friend Stink Stefan, whose parents are neglectful and abusive, find comfort in the stories of the town's patriarch - he tells them fairy tale-like stories of the history and people of their town. As they listen, they begin to uncover and become enraptured the town's dark history. They immerse themselves in this form of "play" and unravel, what they think is a supernatural slant to the disappearances. The book is filled with all the adventures, fears, and wishes that your 10 year old self would have reveled in.  Pia's view point is blurred by the understandings and limitations of a 10 year old, absorbed in how the world affects her and how she affects the world. Rich with the retelling of German fairy tales (much darker than the disney-esque versions many of us grew up with), adults will, no likely piece the puzzle together fairly quickly.

This light read, while not a mind bender, is easily appropriate for ages 14 and up. 

Amazon readers give it: 4.5 stars
Goodread readers give it: 3.55 stars

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