It is relatively rare that my own view differs drastically from general public opinion, but I am thoroughly aware that this is one of those situations. The Vanishing Act has received rave reviews, and it is worth clarifying that I understand entirely why that is. I just disagree with the general consensus.
The Vanishing Act has received those rave reviews because it is short, charming book that stands out both for the strength of its prose and its originality. And it is true to say that it is, fundamentally, written very well.
However, for me there was one utterly fundamental problem with this book, and that is that for all of the fantastic writing, there isn't actually any plot. It's a book about a girl focusing on the disappearance of her mother, but in fact what happens is that the girl considers her mother's disappearance and assesses it, with more than a few references to basic philosophy and with the help of several one dimensional characters. But that is all. There is little in the way of character development once all the characters have been introduced, and even less in the way of plot progression. The one aspect of the plot that could be considered a twist is blindingly obvious (or at least it was to me) long before it is revealed, but without any sort of advancement in the rest of the plot it was difficult to care about that twist anyway.
I could talk more about other positives and negatives about the book, one negative being that the author has a disorientating habit of jumping into flashbacks without any sort of warning, and the clear positive being that, at times, it is very enjoyable to read. But the lack of a plot in the book is a killer blow for me.
It is a real shame, because the potential in this book is clear. But without answering any of the questions that the book poses, it's difficult for me to consider that as a novel there is much overarching merit to be awarded here. It may well be that the book would be a useful educational tool for school children to assess, but as a book in its own right it left me feeling distinctly underwhelmed.