Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

In this sequel to Truly Devious Stevie Bell finds her way back to Ellingham Academy thanks to the man she hates, Edward King.  Once there, she continues investigating the crime from the past as well as trying to figure out where Ellie went after she disappeared from a locked room at the end of the first book.  Some parts of the mystery are solved (the identity of the kidnapper/murderer from 1936!) while new questions are raised.

I read a sequel and I never read sequels.  Even more, now I'm going to have to read the third book since I've already invested this much time and brain power to it all.  However, I was not as blown away by this sequel as I was with the first book which had me rapidly turning pages.  In fact, I felt like the first third, at least, was sort of marking time without much happening at all since this has to be a trilogy.  Once the action actually started things moved along fairly well and I was highlighting clues right and left in order to try to solve the many mysteries.  And I DID solve the Ellingham case before it was officially revealed - yay me!  But...
1.  The "always on the staircase" riddle is NOT good, even when you know the solution to it.  Ellingham is supposed to be a master gamesman so he should've come up with something better than this.  And if this is the only clue he left behind as to the criminal's identity...?  I think he would be a lot more obvious than this.
2.  I am very tired of this romance pattern.  Either be together or don't be together but stop wasting my time with stories where they almost connect but then there's some misunderstanding.  And honestly, David knows what a creep his dad is so having him be outraged that Stevie is yet another person manipulated by him doesn't ring true.  Furthermore, why didn't Stevie just say "I wanted to come back here so I used him to make that happen."
3.  Vi.  This is a minor point in the overall story as Vi is nothing but a tertiary character, but the inclusion of Vi feels token and not like real representation.  We know from the first book that Vi is biologically female but prefers to use they/them as pronouns.  That's pretty much it.  Is Vi nonbinary?  Trans?  Just a girl who prefers to support others by using inclusive pronouns?  I have no idea because there is no other meaningful description of Vi in either book.  If the idea is to include some LGBTQ readers into the story, then I wish Johnson had done something more with this character so people could actually see themselves there.

I know I have more quibbles with it but that's all that's coming to mind at the moment.  Despite that, it still has me thinking and wondering how things will tie up when all's said and done.

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