I acquired a copy of this arc through Netgallery
‘When We Vanished’ by Alanna Peterson is the first book in the ‘Call of The Crow’ quartet and is a YA thriller with dystopian themes. It currently has an avergae rating of 4.33 on Goodreads and I have rated it 4 stars.
Andi’s dad left her family not long ago to take part in a secret research project for food corporation Nutrexo, but when she overhears at a party the company has a dangerous research project she instantly fears her dad is part of it. She seeks help from a neighbour, Cyrus, and together they try to uncover the truth of what Nutrexo is doing. Their investigation leads them to a confidential research facility and it’s head scientist, and learn the hidden truth is far more dangerous than they originally thought.
I downloaded this on Netgallery off of a whim, and I wasn’t really sure if I would like it but I wanted to give it a good go. Therefore, I was suprised by how much I enjoyed this, it was well written with fleshed out characters, and a really interesting plot with themese and a narrative to it that were mostly well executed.
The book follows four different persepctives: Andi, Roya, Novaad and Cyrus. All four of them are teenagers or children, with Novaad being the oldest and about to go to college and Roya being the youngest. I really enjoyed three of the perspectives with Andi, Roya and Novaad, they were characters with distinct personalities and their own flaws but all likable. Roya in particular was my favourite, her worldview is so different from mine but also unlike a lot of what I’ve read before. She also had a great character arc in my opinion and her style of thought brought something different to the novel. However, I didn’t like Cyrus. I really appreciated how he read as a teenage boy who was insecure and wanted to be part of his family but was hiding it, but I just didn’t like him – and that’s my problem, not the author’s. He’s extremely well written, but unfortuntaley everytime I read from his perspective I found myself rolling my eyes because I just didn’t like him, and I found all his motivations to be really selfish. As I’ve stated though he is well written, and I disliked him for personal reasons not due to him being an underdeveloped character.
It is important to mention though that whilst nothing was confirmed with a diagnosis within the narrative, it’s clear the author explored mental health with the characters, and did so well in my opinion. I enjoyed how they spoke about the character’s mental health problems and it was never used to dramatise what was going on, but the author didn’t ignore it either.
I think my biggest issue with the characters in this novel surrounded the antagonist, whilst we were given some backstory to the character and why she was motivated to do what she did, I felt that it was underdeveloped. I would have liked to seen a deeper dive into why she behaved the way she did and therefore gain a greater understanding of the character through it.
There was also some romance in this book, and like most teenagers a few of them were a little obsessed with it. I don’t think this book required any romance and may have been better without it. I particularly disliked one of the romances as I thought it was based on little chemistry and it all felt a bit rushed to me, however the other main romance was good and worked as a background plot line.
The story as well was well-written, it was fast-paced and full of action and I found myself unable to point it down at points. Whilst I enjoyed most of it I should mention there were aspects of the plot that I don’t think worked well with the rest of it. There were certain aspects introduced that didn’t fit with the rest of the themes, and it felt like the writer shoehorned them in at times. As well as this, there were times where things happened a little too easily for the some of the characters, e.g. they just happened to stumble across people they could trust, or they got away from the bad guys with little difficulty.
However, the themes in this were handled well. There was a lot of discussion around what food can contain and how that can be addictive, the rise of antibiotic resistant bugs, animal welfare and clean eating. It was really interesting for this reason as these are topics not commonly explored in YA and is something that happens in the real world, if you want to learn a little bit more about this I do recommend this video by Patriot Act. It should be noted however there wasn’t much discussion on how class divions can impact this and limit people’s access to ‘clean eating’ or supporting companies that prioritise animal welfare, but this is the first in what is meant to be a series so I don’t want to judge it too harshly for not doing a deeper dive into themes that may come up later in the series.
Overall this a solid YA novel and a great start to a series, I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for this series as I’m interested to see where the author will take the themes she established here and how the characters will grow. It’s definitely a book I would recommend if you love fast-paced novels and are interesed in books that explore ideas around clean eating.