Book Review: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
Title: 17 & Gone (GoodReads)
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Page Count: 353
Genre: YA Mystery
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.
With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.
I had high expectations for this book. I recently read Suma’s Imaginary Girls, and I greatly enjoyed that novel. I expected the same level of beautiful and creepy writing that I found in that one. And to an extent I found that. The writing itself was creepy and beautiful. I could clearly see all the girls and the places Lauren went.
Sadly, that’s about the extent of my praise for this book, at least not without getting into spoilers. All I’ll say about the ending (really, the last third of the book, maybe a little more) was that I really liked it, and it mostly made up for the first half of the book. I nearly put the book down after 100 pages, and I have to say that I’m mostly glad I finished it.
That said, this book didn’t suck me in like Suma’s other novel. I felt no connection with Lauren, probably because she doesn’t really have much of a personality at all. We meet Lauren when she meets Abby, and after that she’s obsessed with learning more about these girls and figuring out what they want her to do and how she can stop herself from being like them. Once she meets the girls, I understand why she gets obsessed. The novel wouldn’t work if she weren’t. I still wish, though, that we got to see more of Lauren before she meets the girls. Her friends think she’s acting weird, but we don’t really understand why because we’ve never seen her acting normally.
This is also a novel where not a lot happens. As a lover of literary fiction, you’d think I’d be okay with that. Maybe I’ve been reading contemporary too long. Maybe this one just didn’t do a good job. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for a slow book. Whatever the case, I found myself bored with this book, particularly during that first hundred pages. I kept expecting the girls to talk to her or show her stuff and have her life be inconvenienced by them more than just “oh, I’m late for school.” I did eventually get all of that, but the beginning was a bit slow for me. I didn’t care what happened to Lauren or Abby. I didn’t really care why Lauren could see Abby. Really, after the first thirteen chapters, I took my bookmark out and decided to take it back to the library.
Obviously I had a change of heart. I’m not sure why I decided to give it another shot. The book did get better after that. We met more girls, most of whom I found more interesting than Abby. More things started happening. The novel got more surreal – in a good way. Lauren’s not the world’s most reliable narrator, but that just made things more interesting.
Overall: This books started out slow but got better near the end. I recommend giving this book a chance for yourself.