I just finished Rachele Alpine’s novel A Void the Size of the World, and I am still in awe. The book follows Rhylee, who’s forced to grapple with her sister Abby’s disappearance. The thing is that Abby’s disappearance is indirectly Rhylee’s fault. Abby caught Rhylee kissing Abby’s boyfriend Tommy and fled into the woods heartbroken…and never came out. Now evidence is mounting that something bad happened to Abby, and the police suspect that Tommy is behind it. Rhylee’s forced to confront her own bad behavior, and deal with the guilt that comes when the person you wish would go away actually goes away.
I loved this book. It’s tragic, it’s mysterious, and it’s brilliant. And it made me think about all the books and movies out there that deal with missing sisters. There are quite a few stories out there that grapple with this topic. Some media goes for the mystery angle — what happened and who’s responsible? Many focus on just the drama — how do you move on when there’s so little closure? And some dip into the supernatural — is there a larger force at work, a grander conspiracy? I’ve rounded up some of my favorite media about vanished sisters (and one brother) that fall into all three categories. Check out my list below, and then read our extended excerpt of A Void of the Size of the World!
1. Until Dawn
In 2014, a group of friends heads to their usual winter retreat — a cabin in the woods owned by the family of Josh and his twin sisters Hannah and Beth. After a mean-spirited prank goes wrong, Hannah flees into the woods, followed by Beth. The two are cornered by someone (or something), and vanish without a trace. A year later, Josh invites the same group back to the cabin to commemorate his sisters’ probable deaths. But nothing is as it seems, and soon the friends are being hunted by something sinister. Until Dawn is a survival horror video game where you play as multiple characters, with your actions directly affecting who lives and who dies. It’s filled with big scares and fun plot twists— plus, it stars Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere and Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek. What more could you need?
2. Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Wiengarten
Two years ago, Ellie’s older sister Nina snuck out of the house late at night and never came back. Ellie’s pretty much the only person still convinced Nina’s out there somewhere, still alive. In fact, she’s willing to do anything to find Nina — including embarking on a cross-country road trip with an essential stranger, the adventurous and handsome Sean, to get to the bottom of what happened. Lynn Weingarten’s debut novel is a fantastic read, with a central mystery that will have you gripped until the truth finally comes out.
3. The Seventh Victim
This 1943 film noir tells the story of Mary Gibson, a young woman at a private boarding school who discovers her only relative — her older sister Jacqueline — has not paid her tuition in months and has gone missing. Mary leaves school and goes to New York City to find Jacqueline, discovering along the way that Jacqueline might have gotten caught up in some dangerous cult activity. Although initially critically panned, The Seventh Victim has gone on to become a classic, noted for its dreamy visuals and haunting sense of despair.
4. Alison, Who Went Away by Vivian Vande Velde
Fourteen-year-old Susan has been trying to reinvent herself since her older sister Alison disappeared. She’s started going by Sybil, and she’s trying to adjust to life in her new high school. When her best friend Connie has the idea to get dates to the freshman dance by signing up to be in the school play, Susan goes along with it — even though it’s possibly a disaster in the making. Less of a mystery than most missing-person stories, Vivian Vande Velde’s novel deals with the real-world ramifications of loss, adolescence, and turmoil at home.
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film follows Marion Crane, who steals $40,000 of cash from her boss. After leaving town she gets caught in a rainstorm and winds up at the Bates Motel, where she meets awkward proprietor Norman Bates, who cares for his ailing mother in the home. After talking with Norman, she has a change of heart, deciding to return the money. That is, until — spoilers — she’s brutally stabbed to death in the shower. The film then shifts to her sister, Lila, who teams up with Marion’s boyfriend Sam to try and get to the bottom of what happened to the now-missing Marion. Of course, everything leads them back to the Bates Motel, and to the dark secrets residing there.
6. Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah
Claire Graham is living in Manhattan when she learns her little sister, Ella, has disappeared. Claire’s not eager to return to her small hometown in Ohio after the tragedy that she faced there — the attack that nearly killed Ella two years earlier, which still haunts Claire so badly that she suffers from hallucinations. But she promised to keep Ella safe — so it’s up to her to find out where Ella went. Andrea Hannah’s book is a dark and twisty tale with an ending that will leave you breathless.
7. The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke
Thirteen years ago, Laurel Logan disappeared. The only witness was her little sister Faith, who’s life has been dominated by Laurel’s absence ever since. Then, one day, a young woman appears in the garden of the Logan’s old house, clutching Laurel’s teddy bear. Faith has always wanted Laurel to come back, but the reality of it is nothing like Faith thought it would be. And then there’s Laurel’s strange and erratic behavior — and the growing suspicion Faith has that Laurel really might be too good to be true.
Bonus: Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill
Alright, maybe this one’s cheating a little since it’s a missing brother instead of a missing sister, but it’s definitely earned its spot on this list. Daniel Tate was ten years old when he disappeared from his California neighborhood. Now, six years later, he’s resurfaced on the snowy streets of Vancouver a different person. Literally, in this case — because the boy claiming to be Daniel Tate? He’s not Daniel Tate. He’s just a petty con artist who’s stumbled on the scam of a lifetime. But his scam might be more dangerous than he assumed, because he’s not the only person in the Tate household hiding something. After all, the real Daniel Tate is still missing — and someone knows what happened to him.