The Year of Disappearances
Published 2009 286 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
It was the year of disappearances. The honeybees were the first to go.
Half-human and half-vampire, Ariella Montero has spent her first thirteen years in exile, unable to fit into either of her worlds. After the murder of her best friend, Ari struggles to begin a new life in Florida, but her special talents are severely tested as she moves on – from a vampire community in the Sunshine State to college in Georgia to the primeval maze of the Okefenokee Swamp. One by one, the people and things she cares most about begin to disappear.
And Ari may be next.
The Year of Disappearances is the second novel in the Ethical Vampire series by Susan Hubbard. Like The Society of S, the book that preceded it, The Year of Disappearances continues following the coming-of-age of Ariella Montero, a half-vampire, half-human teenager.
The big revelations for Ari, happened in The Society of S. She discovered her father was a vampire and found out that she was a half-breed before she realised her own vampire heritage when she bit a man who was threatening her – promptly sealing her fate to be a vampire. She was reunited with her mother, who had disappeared after Ari’s birth, and found a new home in Florida. The Year of Disappearances starts shortly after were The Society of S finished and the opening pages of the book see Ari living happily enough with her mother. She even makes some new friends with two human girls from town, Mysty and Autumn.
It isn’t long before Mysty disappears and suspicion falls on Ari, after all her last best friend was murdered and the FBI never found the murderer. To get away, 14 year-old Ari goes to college which presents a new set of challenges for a half-vampire girl trying to fit in with her human peers. It isn’t long before another of Ari’s friends is found dead – murdered – and eventually Ari realises that there may be more sinister things going on than she originally imagined.
As a book for young adults, The Year of Disappearances sounds like a most conventional read. The idea of a teenager suddenly realising that they are a vampire and come from a vampire family is hardly anything new in teen fiction. However, the skill of Hubbard’s writing seems to craft her Ethical Vampire books into something that transcends the usual YA fare. Although the story is narrated by 14 year-old Ari, her educated and mature tone of voice is suggestive of a much older narrator. The author’s use of the past tense may be responsible for this too – readers are left with the impression that Ari is telling her story from a distance of time, and in some cases, emotion.
While the Society of S introduced the idea of vampire factions, with Ari’s father being a Sanguinist – an ethical vampire who thinks feeding from humans is wrong and who manages their appetites and instinctual drives with artificial blood and supplements – it didn’t really expand too much on the idea since the story’s focus was more about Ari’s family dramas. It’s fair to say that the other vampire factions have very different ideas to the Sanguinists about the worth of human life which would be most likely to lead to conflict amongst the vampires, if they weren’t all so intellectually opposed to war. In The Year of Disappearances, the plotline has a much stronger mystery and conspiracy vibe with persons (or vampires) unknown plotting behind the scenes to control the population with brainwashing and drugs.
There is very little fantasy vampire action in this story and this maybe prove to be a disappointment to readers who like their vampires to be at the superhero, or super-villain, ends of the fantasy spectrum. Conversely, this may give the story more of a cross over appeal to readers who don’t normally read genre fiction since the strength of Susan Hubbard’s writing lies in its sophisticated construction and character drama rather than its supernatural elements.
The Year of Disappearances is a hard book to categorise – it’s not a romance, its not horror, its not urban fantasy and it’s barely a mystery. However, despite all the things its not, it is a most satisfying read – and for that reason I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
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