The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers

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Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN 9781619631274
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Mystery. Thriller. Horror. When 17 year old Jocelyn receives a letter from Jason December, she is convinced that her twin brother Jack has not died in a car accident, as she previously thought, because he and their friend Noah are the only people who know the meaning behind Jason December. She begins to follow the clues in the letter, and these lead her back to Seal House, the horrifying foster home where Jack, their friend Noah and she spent time. She reunites with Noah, and the clues send them off on a trip that uncovers what has happened to Jocelyn in her childhood and what has happened to Jack in the company that employed him and Noah.
The author has Jocelyn and Noah making a terrifying journey back to their childhood where Jocelyn relives what had happened to Jack and her when they arrived at Seal House. The owner had a nasty initiation ceremony to the foster home where new children were locked in the dark cellar without food or light for their first night at the home, in order to terrify them and make sure that they didn't give her any trouble. Elements of horror stories emerge, with Jocelyn's arm displaying a huge bite mark from an attack while she is in the cellar and the walls of the home and other buildings seem to warp and move. The suspense is absolutely gripping with a hit man chasing Jocelyn, blowing up the houses where she and Noah are staying and demanding that she give him a list. Jocelyn also encounters scary children who once lived at the home and their actions are terrifying too.
Readers who really enjoy world puzzles and ciphers will have a lot of fun working out the clues that arrive from Jason December, as Jocelyn and Noah move from one place to another trying to find the messages that have been left for them and working out if Jack is still alive.
The low-key romance between Jocelyn and Noah is poignant as these two geeks get to know each other after being apart for years. Readers are sure to relate to Jocelyn and her plight with an abusive mother and awful foster homes. However Jocelyn matures throughout the story and readers will find solace in her observation that problems 'are like pebbles on the shore. If you hold them close to your eye, they seem gigantic. But if you put them where they belong, you can have a better perspective on what they really were'. pg.316
There is a massive twist at the end that will leave readers going back over the story to see the clues that the author has given. It makes sense of the mystery in the story but was totally unexpected and it is this twist that made it such a good mystery for me.
Lovers of mysteries and thrillers are sure to enjoy The vanishing game.
Pat Pledger