By: Sheela Chari
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Released on: July 26th, 2011
Source: ARC from TLA
3 stars- It's A Good Read
Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument used to be her grandmother’s—made of warm, rich wood, and intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon. When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, Neela is devastated. As she searches for it, strange clues surface: a teakettle ornamented with a familiar-looking dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela's intrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. If she is able to track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?
Vanished is a story that blends both American & Indian cultures, mystery, family relationships, music, and centers around eleven year old Neela who's aspiring dreams and daily struggles make her a relatable, endearing character. Neela has a gift, she can play the veena a rare Indian musical instrument, which is also a beloved family heirloom her Grandmother gave to her. As Neela dreams of playing her veena in front of large crowds, her beautiful instrument goes missing and a mystery ensues.
Neela is a typical eleven year old girl who's trying to find her place in the world. I found her to be very relatable as she's learning how to deal with the struggle between doing what her parents want her to do and wanting to follow her own ambitions. I was a little frustrated at times with Neela for not speaking up more, but I understood her desire to both try and figure out the mystery surrounding her stolen veena and to please her parents. I felt Sheela did a great job at portraying what it's like for Neela in school with her friends, her rivals and trying to discover were she fits in. Through the course of the book Neela grows out of her insecurities and becomes much more of a confident tween.
I really liked the way Neela's Indian and American cultures were interwoven together. I felt like Sheela gives the reader a realistic portrayal of how Neela learns to embrace both. I adored her closest friend Pavi, and how the mystery surrounding the missing veena and it's curse are revealed through Neela's Indian heritage. I love the cover and I liked how each chapter alternated between a picture of the veena and a picture of the dragon, which also plays a symbolic role in the story. Overall I felt Vanished was a good story, and I liked the unique, diverse elements that really brought the story together.