Lizzie’s strict parents have sheltered her from what she calls the “normal teenage experience” by keeping tabs on her friends, interests, and online social life. But when Lizzie connects with her new neighbors and finally gets the life she’s always wanted, she finds that she gets more than just the cell phone she bargained for.
One of the most appealing and unique qualities of this story lies in the frank, sarcastic storytelling technique of the main character. Told in the present tense and first person, this story allows the reader to experience the joy and heartbreak of high school right alongside Lizzie. Her cynicism and brutal honesty about both herself and those around her provide depth and insight into her character not often found in young adult fiction. Several times Lizzie acknowledges that she is “superficial” and “self-centered,” qualities, which both humanize her character and help her connect to the young adult audience.
This novel also is unique in its relevance to today’s youth and accurate depiction of the life of most modern suburban teenagers. Even when dealing with the classic “mean girl,” Maura, Mulligan makes sure to steer clear of the many archetypes that permeate most pop culture surrounding high school life. Instead she develops complex, entertaining characters in a realistic setting, all which contribute to the overall appeal of Lizzie’s story.
While this work’s realism mainly serves to connect the story to the reader, it does lend itself to a few problems. The vivid description of Lizzie’s first voyage into cyberspace features a large focus on setting up her illicit Facebook account, making secret trips to the library computer lab, and deciding how best to connect with her classmates online. Bogged down by these fairly mundane scenes, the story moves slowly for the first fifty or so pages, with only a few plot lines compelling the reader to continue.
Still, when the audience does read on, they are treated to a series of insights into the struggles the come with adolescence. While Mulligan makes the usual observations about strict parents, the desire for independence, and a preoccupation with superficiality, she also delves into many more complex issues. In finding new friends, Lizzie becomes aware of her own selfishness and judgmental tendencies. She also learns that not all of her friends are as fortunate as she is, and has to accept that there may be more to her arch nemesis than meets the eye. Lizzie also grapples with family issues, like the onslaught of emotions she experiences when her brother returns home from college with his first serious girlfriend. Meanwhile, her grandmother is aging rapidly, which forces Lizzie to come to terms with her own denial that anything is amiss. These are the mature themes which both give the story depth and help connect it to the lives of the readers.
Watch Me Disappear is not just another teen novel. By balancing the often-confusing themes of growing up with witty, sarcastic humor, Mulligan creates a memorable, insightful work of young adult fiction that will resonate strongly with the teen audience.
Reviewed by Claire Colburn for IndieReader