I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book from its publisher by the request of the author, Nova Ren Suma. I am a constant reader of Nova’s exceptional blog, Distraction 99, which is an excellent resource for YA book lovers as Nova often does blog series featuring new and upcoming (and also older and more unappreciated) young adult books. Nova also blogs frequently about her own writing and publishing journey, and if you are a writer of any genre or a frequent reader of YA, you should add Distraction 99 to your blogroll. First of all, I was thrilled that Nova had a copy of this book sent to me. It was very nice of her and totally unexpected. I blew through it in a few days after receiving it and of course I am a procrastinator so haven’t blogged it until now. (SORRY!) As I am terrible at summarizing books, here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.
I LOVED this book. The writing reminded me a lot of Nova’s other book, Imaginary Girls. Mysterious, beautiful, lyrical writing that sometimes seems more like poetry than what you would find in a young adult novel, and honestly the writing itself is much more mature than you will find in many YA novels these days. It is pretty easy for me to tell by reading 17 & Gone that Nova has the stuff it takes to write bestsellers for adults, but I am glad that she is currently focusing on the YA books. Young Adult readers NEED smart adult writers like Nova. They need writers who will write for them, but not TO them – meaning, keeping the stories “clean” without graphic sex or violence and occasional but not overused harsh language and swears, but also getting deep down and dirty with issues teens face that adults sometimes don’t feel comfortable talking to them about. Why is this so important? Because it’s what teens need, of course! They need smart books that are relatable to them, books on issues that teens face that aren’t just about budding romance and trouble with parents. This book tackles quite a few of these issues, stranger danger (it’s not just for little kids, you know!) crime, navigating new sexual experiences, underage drinking and drug use, and mental health issues.
In 17 & Gone, Lauren definitely has some parent issues. Her dad was not in the picture and she was raised by her single mother who we learn was an exotic dancer during Lauren’s childhood, doing what she needed to do to be able to provide for her daughter until she found other jobs and started putting herself through college for psychology. They lived in a carriage house style apartment owned by a wealthy couple whose daughter was the first of many who disappeared from Lauren’s life.
Lauren has some serious issues of her own. She’s a teenage girl, for one thing. She doesn’t really know if she likes her friends, and she has a boyfriend but she keeps a lot from him because she doesn’t think that he will understand what she is going through, which of course causes him to pull away. But the biggest issue that Lauren deals with is that she sees girls that other people don’t see – she sees lost girls, girls who have disappeared without a trace, all at the age of 17.
Most of 17 & Gone is about Lauren trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to one of the missing girls, Abby Sinclair. Lauren does some investigation on her own, breaking into the summer camp where Abby worked where she disappeared, visiting her old boyfriend and even her grandparents who are states away, and Lauren gets into quite her share of trouble from doing all of this investigating, but really it’s what’s going on inside Lauren’s head that is giving her the most trouble.
In 17 & Gone, just like in Nova’s other book, Imaginary Girls, nothing is as it seems. The books is filled to the brim with mystery – not just about the lost girls, but about Lauren herself, and through reading the book we get to know Lauren just as she grows into knowing herself, and it is a wild, surprising, and totally unpredictable story about growing up and growing into who you are when you turn out to be something completely different from what you ever expected.
I don’t want to say anything else and spoil the book for you, but I will say this is the best YA novel I have read so far this year and it will probably stay quite high on my list of all the books I intend to read in 2013. 17 & Gone will be released in stores in March.