‘Rules for Vanishing’: a brilliantly creepy found footage tale

November 15, 2022

TITLE: Rules for Vanishing
AUTHOR: Kate Alice Marshall
GENRE: Horror
PAGES: 404pg
PUBLISHER: Viking Books for Young Readers

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister—at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her—and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her… or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca—before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends—and their cameras—following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

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So be careful what roads you take, and be careful who you follow down them.

I’ve been hearing friends rave about Rules for Vanishing for years, and all I can say is that I’m sorry it took me this long to read it, because WOW, this was incredible! It was honestly one of the creepiest and best YA horror novels I’ve ever read, and it had some of the best “found footage” vibes I’ve ever seen in a book.

The mixture of Sara’s standard narrative with the bits of interviews and other media types were incredible and kept the plot moving at a lightning pace, with some sort of action seeming to hit you near constantly. Sara’s narrative parts are told in a first-person, present tense style, which works brilliantly for the ominous feel of the story, especially when we quickly realize Sara’s hiding some things from us, too. The unreliable narrator kept me constantly guessing at what was real and what wasn’t, and it all culminated in the most atmospheric, immersive, genuinely creepy experience that I loved every single page of.

There are so many twists in this book, and nothing is as it seems—especially the road itself—so it’s the kind of book that I truly recommend you go into knowing as little as possible about. If I could recommend any single YA horror book I’ve read in recent years above all others, it would be this one, and I can’t wait to read more of Kate Alice Marshall’s stories!

content warnings →
WARNINGS (click to expand):

missing persons, death, body horror, violence, murder, mentions of suicide

representation →

bi MC, lesbian love interest, Asian side character, deaf side character, side character with a stutter


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. I didn’t like this one as much, but I LOVED Kate Alice Marshall’s new book, These Fleeting Shadows. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend checking it out.

      1. I’m actually starting a buddy read of These Fleeting Shadows in a couple of days and I absolutely can’t wait! I want to read all of her books now. 😀 Thank you for the encouragement, now I’m even more excited!

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