Paola (A Novel Idea)'s Reviews > 17 & Gone

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2013-favorites, arc

4/5 Stars

17 & Gone plunges the reader into the world of the lost and never found. It’s a world of very real, very frightening statistics — of horror stories all the more chilling because they are based on truth. The writing is evocative and surreal, leaving you listening for telltale whispers and footsteps on the stairs. This is a book you just can’t miss.

I was beyond thrilled to receive an ARC of 17 & Gone. (Not kidding about this — there was a moment of me screaming in my computer chair when I saw I’d been approved for it, and then there was another moment of me fidgeting with glee and anticipation as it downloaded to my iPad…) I discovered Nova Ren Suma last year when I read her extremely beautiful, equally haunting Imaginary Girls and found myself still thinking about it days after turning the last page. True to form, 17 & Gone was a mesmerizing experience.

There are so many, many layers to this story that it will probably take me multiple reads to sort through them all. It’s the kind of book that offers up even more the second time you read it. The truth is woven through Lauren’s narrative with so much skill that half the fun is unraveling it. But what I loved about this book was how much it made me think. It kept my brain going, ticking along at a furious pace, trying to catch the twists before they came. The beauty of it is that you dive into the novel and into Lauren’s skin, becoming so immersed that it’s hard to even see the plot twists coming. You’re trying to see through the smoke, just like she is. If you end up taking my advice and reading this book, get ready because you’re in for a trip. (In a good, complex, thought-provoking way.)

Lauren, our protagonist, is a convincingly real girl. She’s believable — has a boyfriend, a best friend, a junker that she drives to school. She stocks shelves after school at her part time job. She dyes her hair. None of these mundane details makes her mundane, per se. For me, it just made the completely unreal elements of the plot have more impact. The degree to which her routine existence is disrupted by the appearance of Abby in the backseat of her car is that much more powerful by contrast. Lauren is initially eclipsed by the impossible things that start happening to her. You cling to how unremarkable she was in the beginning, and you look at her as an ordinary girl, and all the while her own story is unfolding alongside those of the other girls. Then there’s a point where it hits you with no small amount of force: those other girls, the ones who went missing? They used to be ordinary too, if only on the surface. There’s more to Lauren than that initial impression we get of her, and she’s not just the medium through which these girls communicate.

So much genius is going on in this narrative. What I realized about a quarter of the way through was that you’re as much an audience to Lauren’s inward collapse as you are to the stories of the missing girls. It’s both frightening and compelling to watch her lose substance even as the girls gain clarity. They start to seem more real to Lauren, and to the reader, with every word on the page. It’s partially a story about Lauren’s gradual decline into someone who goes missing from her own life, no matter that her face has yet to appear on a missing poster of its own.

But it’s also a wake-up call to anyone who’s breezed right by that bulletin board at the grocery store with the faces of runaways and kidnapped children looking out at us from photocopied notices. It’s a paean to every abandoned search, every vanished girl written off as a runaway, every case closed before its time. The girls who reach out to Lauren implore her to remember, to be a conduit for their unfinished stories, and 17 & Gone implores its reader to pay attention. Its plot extends beyond the fictional and into the real world, where hundreds of thousands of girls go missing every year.

I realize that this is most likely the shortest review I’ve ever written (I tend to be wordy, so sue me), but I just can’t give you anything more without spoiling everything. And this is definitely a book you don’t want to be spoiled for, because it will seriously wreck the entire experience. I don’t want to break the spell, so just put all your blind faith and trust in me and go get this book when it comes out. Oh, and pick up Imaginary Girls while you wait.

This book is never static. It shifts in your hands and slips out of your reach just when you think you’ve figured it out. You think you know what the girls really are, and you think you’ve worked out why they keep pulling Lauren away from her reality and into their strange in-between world, but then the story changes shape before your eyes. It’s complicated, an elaborate mind game. And if you appreciate being perplexed, and you can be comfortable with being uncomfortable — with never knowing if what you’re standing on is real or illusion, and not having concrete answers for all your questions — then you need some Nova Ren Suma in your life. Personally, I think everyone does.

17 & Gone is out on March 21st! A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the chance to read this book before release!

Originally posted at A Novel Idea Reviews
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Reading Progress

March 2, 2013 – Started Reading
March 2, 2013 – Shelved
March 4, 2013 –
page 147
March 7, 2013 –
page 231
March 7, 2013 – Shelved as: 2013-favorites
March 7, 2013 – Shelved as: arc
March 7, 2013 – Finished Reading

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