Hardcover, 354 pages
Published March 21st 2013 by Dutton Juvenile
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.
No one will quibble about Nova Ren Suma’s writing talent. Whether you like her books or not, you have to acknowledge her wordsmithery. So far, I have read three of her books and I have liked them all. I haven’t loved any with the craziness I reserve for Libba Bray’s books but I have appreciated the tense atmosphere, the glorious sentences and the emotional conflicts her books are full of. I also appreciate that Suma pays attention to relationships between girls; this is something quite lacking in the YA genre.
17 & Gone is a melancholy novel. It succeeds on several levels with me but falters on others. Lauren is a normal high school student until she gets obsessed with a missing poster of a girl who is her age. She starts seeing her ghost and starts dreaming about her and others as she falls further into the grip of her obsession with these girls.
The writing is solemn, the atmosphere is so sad and the reality of these girls is a constant present in the readers’ minds. Though these missing girls are fictional, there are others who share the same fate. However, I am afraid that Lauren does come across as a bit too melodramatic. She is supremely mean to her schoolmates who for some bizarre reason do not seem to get the memo and keep on approaching her. I did not understand why she was a, excuse the French, bitch to the girl who kept on making overtures of friendship. She pushes everyone away which is understandable but at the same time, a bit contrived.
Now, this is the spoiler part because I need to discuss the ending, we find at the end that almost everything that Lauren saw, heard and felt were a result of her oncoming psychosis. She is found to be mentally ill and I just did not buy that because there is a sort of logic to her craziness that, while I’m no expert on mental illnesses, I did not find in her thoughts. It just felt too much like the Alice in Wonderland trope where she wakes up at the ending. Except in this she doesn’t wake up. I think a few red herrings to alert the reader about what was actually occurring, some dramatic irony, would have functioned better to prepare the reader for the climax. As it is, I was a bit befuddled and not willing to believe the resolution the author gave me.
However, I did really enjoy the writing and while I was sad that there was not more of an emphasis on the reality of the missing children everywhere and impressed with the ending, I do think it’s worth a read. As such, I recommend it.