Monday, April 8, 2013

My Thoughts On: The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston

The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston
Series: The Rules For Disappearing #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Publish Date: May 14, 2013
320 Pages
Source: ARC Tour


She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.

Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.

But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.
-(summary from Goodreads) 



The Rules For Disappearing 
by Ashley Elston

My Thoughts: When I first saw this book and the summary, I thought it sounded so neat - I am not well-versed in the ways of Witness Protection, but the thought of having to be a part of that program and move from place to place seems like it would make a great story. What I didn't expect was that The Rules For Disappearing is much more than just a Witness Protection story and that there are surprises all over the place. I loved it. 


The first thing you need to know is this:
Meg and her family are in the Witness Protection Program.  
But "Meg" isn't really Meg, and the rest of the family have fake names too. Every time they move, they invent a new life for themselves. They've moved so many times in the past few months, they've got it down to a routine. Something is different this time, though - something isn't quite right. See, Meg and her sister have had to cut and dye their hair, and Meg has had to get colored contact lenses for her eyes. They've never had to do that before. Meg knows that the security has been stepped-up, but no one is saying why. No one will answer her questions. 

Meg is frustrated with the lack of information available to her. She doesn't understand what happened to land them in this predicament in the first place! All she knows is that at any given time, on any given day, they all could be whisked away to some other life in some other town. Meg carries a clunky bag packed with a few essentials for herself and and younger sister Mary at all times just in case they have to leave in a hurry - this way at least the two sisters will have a change of clothes and something to keep them occupied while they are being processed by the officials in the suits. The big bag causes people to look at her funny, but she doesn't care. It's not like she can make any roots anywhere anyway. She can't make friends with these people. Before she knows it, she'll be moved to some new place and have to start all over again. It's always that way. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
Despite her best efforts, Meg really likes this new place. 
So does Mary. And of course, there is this guy. 
Meg tries so hard to act aloof and unapproachable. She really doesn't want to be friends with anyone only to disappear in the middle of the night without a trace (that's totally happened before). But this town is so charming and Meg can picture a future here. She gets a job at a pizzeria a few blocks from home so she can make a few extra dollars to spend. While she's working, she begins to trust the owner of the restaurant. She also begins to realize that the cute guy that seems interested in her isn't really all that bad, and she's (reluctantly and unavoidably) kind of interested in him too. 

Ethan Landry is a super-cute farm-boy that seems to be interested in Meg, the real Meg. She's afraid that once he finds out that she isn't "the real Meg" - he won't be interested anymore. Her unusual situation is compounded when Mary begins to trust Ethan and take a liking to him too, so Meg is hesitant to continue to try pushing him away. Once Meg begins to relax and allow herself to have fun with Ethan, life in this new town isn't that bad...until creepy and dangerous things start happening

The third thing you need to know is this:
It seems like 'THEY' know where she is. 
Which means Meg and her family may have to move soon. 
Meg has gotten to the point that she'll do ANYTHING to stay in this town, with these people that she's growing to enjoy and love. She has to figure out what it is they're after - what it is that her family has seen or heard or knows - and she has to STOP this madness before it goes any further. Meg decides to take matters into her own hands to prevent moving again. She's willing to risk everything to stay in this place because she's sick of the rules of the Witness Protection Program. 

It's at this point that things get CRAZY. Meg has no idea things were as bad as this. No idea the danger they all have been in. And nobody knows what Meg has been seeing and hearing. 

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By the time things start getting crazy and super-exciting, I had fallen hard for Meg, her sister Mary, and Meg's boyfriend Ethan. I was so invested in Meg being able to lay some roots in their new town that I wanted her to succeed in her crazy-dangerous plan to stop whatever it was that was going on. The problem was, I wasn't exactly sure what was going on - and I think that was the point. Finding out each detail, bit-by-bit, was so much fun. 

Author Ashley Elston brilliantly took this super-entertaining story and threw in the mystery/thriller aspect in what felt like a subtle way, and then she turned it up a notch about two-thirds through. This worked really well for me because I tend to get really nervous with mystery-type stories but I never felt this way at all with The Rules For Disappearing. Rather, I felt myself cheering like a madwoman for these young people trying to pull off what seemed like an impossible task. 

In the beginning, when we first meet Meg's family, it is immediately apparent that they are exhausted - they're sick and tired of running from...something or someone. The story opens as the Witness Protection people are assigning them new identities and new appearances. The despair that Meg feels as she has to change the hair that she loves and take a new name is palpable, and I could feel it in my heart. My heart broke for her right away in the beginning, and I was able to forge a connection with her that never went away. It was also apparent from the beginning that older sister Meg was largely responsible for the emotional needs and many of the physical needs of her younger sister Mary, and this made me feel even more emotionally connected to them both. (Sibling bonds, you guys. I love them.) I wanted these two to succeed and rise above this occasion even though it seemed a bit impossible and bleak at the time. Their parents were not painted in a very bright light from the beginning, and I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on this family unit as they began their new life in Nachitoches, Louisiana. 

I loved Meg even more as she went off to her new school, clinging to her go-bag throughout the day. It never left her mind for a second that she could be moved to a new location at any time, so she clung to that bag like it was a part of her. She also was always concerned about Mary, as Mary was at a different school - wondering how she was making friends, were people making fun of her, etc. Once Meg got home, Mary was the first thing on her mind. And when she took the job at the pizzeria, Meg took Mary along with her so she could make sure she was taken care of and watched. As a result of this care, Mary was also able to form a connection with the restaurant owner and with Ethan, and Mary flourished in this town. I LOVED this sibling relationship, and the love between these two girls. 

The slowly-developing relationship between Meg and Ethan was also a lot of fun. It began with Ethan pursuing Meg as she kept pretending to be uninterested. Ethan persisted and eventually Meg relented and admitted her feelings. Even as this romance was present, it was alongside the main part of the story and never greater than the other parts of the plot, which I appreciate and found refreshing. 

While I loved all of the above-mentioned aspects of the story, I think my favorite part was the mystery of why this family was under the protection of the government, and then who was after them to begin with. Throughout the story, some creepy things began to happen that threatened the new location and made another move a possibility. Determined to stay there, Meg kept things to herself, even at risk of putting herself in danger. As a reader, we are privy to all of this - even so, there are twists and turns that we don't see coming. The things that we witness - things that Meg sees and hears - they just don't add up and when THE BIG REVEAL happens, it's just WHOA. SO MANY fun and exciting things happen in the latter two-thirds of the book that it would do the book an injustice for me to mention any of them. You just need to trust that this story is a real treat for readers and a great surprise up until the end (which isn't a painful cliffhanger at all - well done, author!).

The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston was complete and total fun for me. It was completely unexpected, with tons of twists and turns and an awesome ending, and I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to spend my time on this story. Goodreads hints at a second book to be released in 2014, which completely rocks my socks because I would LOVE to see this story expanded a little bit more. 

I recommend The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston for fans of YA contemporary with some mystery and a little bit of romance. Also, if you love reading debut authors, here ya go! This one is fun, you guys. Go forth and read it, and expect surprises several times. 

****************************************************************

The Rules For Disappearing will appeal to fans of

YA Contemporary with Mystery/Thriller

Romance: Slowly-Developing. No Triangle.
Great Setting: Louisiana
Debut Author!

The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston
will be published on May 14, 2013.

*I borrowed this book from Around the World Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review.

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21 comments:

  1. This was such a great little book! I also loved the concept. This is the first book I've read (YA or otherwise) that dealt with Witness Protection and I found it all really fascinating! I loved the snarky "rules" that began each chapter. I LOVED the Louisiana setting (SWAMP pizza sounds DEE-VINE to me!) I loved how down to earth Ethan was, and how LOYAL he was. And I loved the mystery too! I kinda guessed the "big reveal" before Meg figured it out, but it was still a lot of fun watching her get there.

    And how exciting that this book will have a sequel! I thought it was a standalone (no cliffie!) but as we discussed, I think this has a lot of potential to be a great series!

    And the cover is GREAT isn't it?

    Glad you enjoyed this book too A:)

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    1. I think this is the first Witness Protection Program book I've read that I can remember, and I thought it was so neat because I've always wondered about the program but never had any insight into it before. I agree about the rules at the beginning of the chapters, they were fun and snarky! Loved them.

      I've never heard of Swamp Pizza before this book but I'd surely try it. Sounds delicious (I think).

      How did I miss that there was mystery elements to this book? It totally crept up on me and before I knew it, I was all caught up in the mystery of the story before I even realized it! Honestly, if I'd have known it was a mystery story, I probably wouldn't have picked it up, so it's good that it was a subtle ease into the mystery part of the plot (or it felt subtle to me). But once I was in it, I liked it a lot.

      And YES YES YES to a sequel! I'm THRILLED about that! I loved the ending SO MUCH. I would've been okay with the way that it ended, but I'm SO EXCITED to see what happens next!!

      The cover is actually what made me take a double-take at the book initially. I loved it! Just a fun, fun story. I read it in one sitting and had a blast. Great, great debut.

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  2. This sounds like a fun read. I'm always up for a good mystery, and I'm especially delighted to hear about the great sibling relationship here. Thanks for the great review! I hadn't heard about this book before, and I'm really excited to be adding it to my TBR list!

    Kris @Imaginary Reads

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    1. Hi Kris! The sibling relationship in this book is absolutely fantastic. If you're a fan of those, make sure this book is on your to-read because these sisters are very close and super well-written. And the mystery is really fun. This is a debut that I had an idea that I'd like, but I didn't really know I'd end up liking it as much as I did. It was SO MUCH FUN to read and I'm SO EXCITED about a sequel. I can't wait to find out what happens next in the story!

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  3. This sounds like such an interesting premise! I think I read a book about the witness protection program aaages ago but I can't remember what it was now. I always thought it was fascinating though. I love that there's a good sibling relationship and the mystery sounds so intriguing. I am v curious about the big reveal now! Lovely review. :)

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    1. The sibling relationship is written so well - definitely one of the strongest parts of this book. And the mystery is super fun! This is a great debut and I'm already anticipating the sequel. The ending isn't a cliffhanger so I don't feel anxious to get my hands on the book like yesterday, but as soon as I can read it, you bet I will! Great debut! The big reveal is a stunner!

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  4. I've been breaching out to try more contemporaries I wouldn't usually pick up and this is one of those I disregarded at a glance. But, after reading your review now, I feel like this is something I'd really enjoy, especially with all the heartfelt relationships. Stunning review, Asheley! :)

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    1. Hi Keertana! Over the past year, I've learned to really love contemporaries. A year ago, I'd have looked right over this one but my eye was caught by this cover and the summary. Witness Protection Program? Sounds interesting! The sibling relationship is FANTASTIC and the mystery aspect is fun. I really had a blast reading it (in one sitting) and I'm excited to find out the next part of the story when the sequel comes out next year. I hope you enjoy it when you get your hands on it. It's just a fun, fun story.

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  5. Thanks so much for this review! I'm thrilled you liked it.

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  6. Oh wow! I like that this has realistic family dynamics in addition to the romance and plot elements. I'd not been particularly interested in this one, but I'm thinking I need to try it now!

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    1. The family dynamics are really great. The sister relationship is strong and wonderful, and the parents provide a realistic depiction of what could possibly happen to a family in the WPP as well. Loved the romance and the mystery. Just a fun story. Hope you enjoy it!

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  7. DAMN you are winning me over here! I LOVED THIS BOOK. ETHAN = SWOOOON <3 maybe it was the southern ways, maybe it was just HIM. ;)

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    1. SOUTHERN BOYS ARE THE BEST. ALWAYS AND FOREVER, AMEN.

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  8. I've seen this cover a few times and passed on it because I kept thinking it would be more of a weighty issue contemporary, than a witness protection/mystery/thriller/romance. Now i really WANT to read this one. I'm totally fascinated by the WP program and I want to find out what is going on with Meg's family. Plus sibling relationships and a cute guy. Sign me up

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    1. It's actually not terribly weighty even though it sounds like it. The "rules" that head off the chapters (Heather mentions in her comment) lighten the story a little bit and so does the mystery. The romance is not too heavy and the Witness Protection aspect of the story is really interesting. It isn't as heavy as you might expect. I read it in one sitting on the first day of the kids' spring break and I enjoyed every second of it. You will LOVE the sister relationship and you'll love the romance too. I think this is one that you'll like. It's just fun. Not a palette cleanser, but a fun story. Definitely read it if you get the chance. I can't wait for the next installment.

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  9. I also know next to nothing about the Witness Protection Program (though I suppose most people don't, after all) so this does sound really interesting and different. I wonder how much time the author spent researching the program and such. Not that a completely fictionalized story about people in the Witness Protection Program would be bad, but that would be awesome if there were grains of truth to be found within it. Your review makes me so curious to know who is chasing Meg and her family. This sounds like an excellent book to read as part of the DAC. Thanks for the thoughtful, detailed review, Asheley!

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    1. I expected to like this one, but I had no idea how much I'd like it! I sat down to read it and read it quickly in one sitting. And then I was even more pleased to see that it will have a second book coming out, which is GREAT because even though the ending is not a cliffhanger, it could certainly go a bit further. It IS a great DAC book!

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  10. I think I absolutely MUST read this book now. There are elements I love about it already: the Witness Protection Program and the mystery of WHY these characters are in it, the sibling relationship and even Meg herself. I'm so interested in discovering what exactly is going on, and I'm glad that your review has given me more info and gotten me extra excited to check this out!

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    1. Man, you know, lately I'm reading some of the BEST sibling relationship stories. This one is wonderful. These sisters love each other to pieces and it is written perfectly. And Meg is a great character. Plus the story itself is so much fun. I was so pleasantly surprised by how involved I became, how invested. Loved it!

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  11. I just skimmed because I am reading now, but found your review from Bookworm, and wanted to check you out. I am glad you enjoyed and I am enjoying Meg.
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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