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Rules for Vanishing: 10/14/21
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall is a YA horror that reads like a blend of Alice Isn't Dead by Joseph Fink (2018) and The Magnus Archive. It's also one of the most interesting qualifiers for Road Narrative Spectrum I've read this year.
A year ago Becca disappeared with her boyfriend into the forest. Her sister, Sara, knows she managed to summon the road and now she plans to save Becca. From included transcripts it's clear that while she succeeded, things didn't go as planned.
This is a book I will need to (and want to) re-read and annotate. While I've found 638 examples as of this review it's the rare volume that reads like a treatise on road narrative construction. In previous reviews and essays, I've suggested that a house — especially haunted houses — are road narratives, usually through uhoria and often via the maze. Here, though, in one of the waypoints along the journey, Sara and her companions go into and ultimately through a house that is the literal embodiment of the road.
To make Rules for Vanishing all the more compelling, there is a tightly knit lore around the road and the game teens play to summon it. As with many oral traditions, the lore has evolved over time — obscuring the truth and yet the journey down the road reveals what has been hidden through its very landscape. The manifestation through landmarks is one of the things I want to do a deep dive on in a later re-read.
For this post, though, I will just look at the very basics of three part construction that determines placement on the Road Narrative Spectrum. While Sara goes to retrieve her sister and does, throughout her account and the others' accounts through interviews, it's revealed that there are monsters among the travelers, thus setting up the scarecrow/minotaur dichotomy (99).
The destination, while inspired by historical events, isn't to a place out of time (uhoria). It's stated in multiple places in the story that the original destination was destroyed. The road having "lost its purpose" has essentially gone feral and recreated to the best of its ability the landmarks that used to make it a road. As these places are reconstructions in a place outside of reality, the destination is utopia (FF).
The route, though, is the Blue Highway (33). Rather, it's an ancient road's memory of being a road. It's not a straight and gentle road promising safe travels like an interstate. Nor is it a fixed route like the railroad. This is a road that can be strayed from — and one that will punish those who do stray from it.
As with many horror stories, the ending is left somewhat open. Did Sara succeed? Is she a victim of horrors brought home or is she the monster? Will the road continue on to take more travelers?