Ah, the various pros and cons of reviewing a sequel. To some point, it’s enjoyable. There’s no need to introduce characters since they’ve been well established. However, it’s difficult not to compare the latest to its predecessor rather than letting it stand on its own. When it comes to The Year of Disappearances, I can honestly say that I enjoyed it thoroughly with its fresh take on vampirism. It doesn’t hinge on the use of vampires as a gimmick or as a major selling point, but instead, relies on engaging characters and an intriguing plot with some very smart writing to move things along quite nicely. The tale picks up soon after the last left off with inklings of conspiracy, doubts concerning whom to trust, and who the “bad guys” truly are. On the negative side, it does tread over familiar ground with “girl disappears, Ari and family suspected/involved, Ari moves” scenario, but more develops that justifies the occurrence (and it is implied in the title so I digress). Personally, I thought the inclusion of a love interest was unnecessary, and it was dropped so quickly it only served as a brief distraction from the overall story arc. One quibble I have that mostly rests with any series is the fact that a single installment feels like a bridge or a transition to the next. It offers little closure with many mysteries still unaccounted for. I feel that a well-balanced sequel can act as a standalone if needed, but allows for continuation. Of course, that can’t be expected of every title, but it is frustrating to have a “To Be Continued” sign shoved in your face whether the actual words are printed or not. Television serials can mostly get away with it since they only have to keep their fans at bay for a week or so, but in literature, the wait is so much longer and cliffhangers or vague endings lose their edge and curb any enthusiasm I may have had to discover the secrets that are yet to come. Again, only a small complaint that stems from my own incorrigible impatience and curiosity that I feel compelled to mention. Overall, my interest was sustained and I can undoubtedly see myself looking for what happens next to one of my favorite, philosophical blood-suckers (or, you know, Picardo drinkers). I award The Year of Disappearances 3 ½ stars.
Review by Alisa Heskin