Like most ghost stories, Rules for Vanishing is a story about grief.
Katie Alice Marshall tells the story through a collection of interview transcripts, text messages, and first-hand testimony of Sara, the girl whose sister disappearead a year ago under circumstances that appear to be connected with a local legend of a girl lost in the woods. An additional layer of intrigue is the origin of these very materials, and why they are collected here. The connection between them is precise and intentional, weaving together the story with the effect of an archeologist uncovering history that is just out of reach. The voice of Sara's testimony is singular - a girl grieving for her sister even as she pointedly does not address her grief. Even as she recklessly and desperately searches for her sister inside a ghost story.
The mystery is compelling, and the questions are immediately intriguing: what happened to the girl who went missing in the forest almost a hundred years ago? Could really she have kidnapped Sara's sister Becca, and now returned to taunt her family? But beyond the classic paranormal disappearance narrative, beyond the questions, Rules for Vanishing blazes with the heart of love between sisters and the family that they have found in each other and in their friends. It's spooky and terrifying and chilling, but it's human in all the ways that matter.