Author: Sheela Chari
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Genre: Mystery, Multicultural Fiction, Teen/YA
Rating: 4 out of 5
Eleven year old Neela loves playing the veena, an Indian musical instrument, though she has a lot of trouble playing in front of people. She is convinced that the veena her grandmother recently sent her from India has helped her with her stage fright and has actually made her a better player. But when her veena goes missing, Neela must delve into the history of veenas and make unlikely allies in order to find her beloved veena.
Vanished is a novel aimed at middle grade readers with many relevant themes running through its center. Neela is caught between two cultures. Her parents are Indian, but she has been raised in America. She understands her parents’ desires for her, but she also has ambitions of her own. Neela struggles to reconcile the two, to find a way to be herself while also satisfying her parents. When the veena goes missing, Neela feels that she can’t trust her parents with the secrets she uncovers, and though her choice to remain quiet can be frustrating, it’s understandable.
Neela also is passionate about her veena and is determined to discover what has happened to it. Though her parents offer to buy her a new veena, Neela is determined to find the thief of her veena and get the instrument back. Along the way, Neela discovers interesting tidbits about the history of her veena, which is a wonderful opportunity for readers to learn something about this popular Indian instrument. The search for Neela’s veena mirrors the cultural conflict within Neela, and it’s great to see her embrace both sides of her heritage.
The mystery in Vanished is satisfying. As an adult reader, it was unrealistic at times, but I was able to let go of those doubts and just enjoy the story. Chari did a wonderful job keeping readers guessing while not making the plot overly complicated. This was a sweet, enjoyable, and completely surprising novel, and I highly recommend it to middle grade readers. However, adult readers will also enjoy this novel, especially if you are looking for a quick and easy read that incorporates cultural differences and an engaging mystery.