17 & Gone: review

March 1, 2013 2013, 4.5 star books, mature themes, mystery, nova ren suma, Wendy 98

Title:  17 & Gone
Author: Nova Ren Suma
4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date:
March 21, 2013
Dutton Juvenile
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC from publisher

While I was reading 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, I felt as though someone had taken me by the hand and was leading me into a dream state where realities were blurred and paranoia was a constant state of being. I caught glimpses of someone disappearing around a corner, I heard whispers from companions unseen–and there was nothing I could do but allow myself to be pulled deeper and deeper into the ever-changing kaleidoscope of the author’s masterful storytelling.

In this suspenseful psychological thriller, 17-year-old Lauren is overcome by “waking nightmares” of girls who have gone missing. She is compelled to investigate their cases, even as her own family and personal issues threaten her peace of mind. Can she save the girls who are lost? Can she at least honor them even if they’re gone forever? Will she be next?

There are two main things that made this book absolutely outstanding to me: the research and the writing.

800,000 children go missing every year. That’s a big number, and yet in the framework of a fictional story, 17 & Gone captures some essence of those precious lives that are lost. These girls are real and individual souls to Lauren, but eventually the sheer number of their heartbreaking details becomes an overwhelming experience, for her and for us.

There is another, very important topic that is incredibly well-researched, but it’s not one I can reveal without spoiling a huge part of the story. But suffice to say that any experience or knowledge of that subject will give you an increased appreciation for the way certain details are subtly woven into the narrative.

And my god, this woman can write. As with her gorgeous book Imaginary Girls, there is a mood of disquiet and dismay, as well as the unsettling feeling that the story you’re reading might vanish in a wisp of vapor at any moment. I would guess that 17 & Gone will be just as polarizing as its predecessor was, because you may not get your questions answered, and the answers you do get may not necessarily be the ones you’re looking for. But for me, writing like this, storytelling like this, is the stuff that dreams are made of. I will gladly accept Nova’s hand and let her lead me wherever she damned well pleases.

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. 

98 Responses to “17 & Gone: review”

  1. Cassie Frye

    WOW! This book sounds like one heck of an emotional right. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy once it’s released. This review has made me even more excited! Awesome.

    • Wendy Darling

      Just a couple more weeks before it’s out, Cassie. :) I’m really excited for everyone to read it, I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

  2. Alexa Y.

    It makes me so incredibly happy that you liked this one, as it’s a book that I’m eagerly anticipating. Ever since I first heard about it, I’ve been struck by the fact that it really chooses to tackle something that scares me but is a real issue in our society. Beautiful review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thank you! I’m so glad this book is on your radar. It’s so beautifully written, and if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers I’m can’t imagine that you won’t find it a fascinating read.

  3. Sea Glass

    Great writing is absolutely what makes a book. Plus, this sounds like a really exciting read… adding to the library list!

    • Wendy Darling

      If there’s great writing, I rarely even care what the book is about, Sea Glass. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

  4. starryeyedjen

    I love the way you describe your feelings on this book…that’s exactly how I felt while reading Imaginary Girls. Like the story might disappear at any time. If I didn’t hurry and find out what was going on, I might never get the chance. Thanks for this thoughtful review, Wendy. Looks like I’ll be adding another book to my TBR. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ahh, Jen! If you loved IMAGINARY GIRLS, I’m sure you’ll love this, too. I felt the same way–that urgency to find out what happened before the book disappeared. Can’t wait to see what you think of it!

  5. Traci @ The Reading Geek

    Fantastic review! 17 and Gone has been on my to read list for months and it sounds like a such a great story. I have heard so many people comment on Nova Ren Suma’s writing and I definitely plan on reading Imaginary Girls soon as well. You have definitely convinced me that I need to move her books up on my to read list now.

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Traci! I adore this author’s writing, and she is such a thoughtful blogger and tweeter, too. I hope you have a chance to try out her books soon. Her style isn’t for everyone, but you never know–she might end up becoming one of your favorites. She’s definitely one of mine. :)

  6. Lyn Kaye

    This one sounds awesome. I got the ARC but the file was bad and I just never got it straightened out. I’ll have to grab it when it comes out. Thanks for the review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh Lyn–I think you might really like this! Hurry up and read it when it’s out, please. :) I want to know what you think of it.

  7. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    I am so, so , so very happy to read this review! This is absolutely what I like and I will be picking up a copy as soon as I get time. I still need to read Imaginary Girls, but I did recently pick up a copy at my grocery store of all places. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Isn’t it funny how books are everywhere now? I approve! :) Our Target just expanded their YA shelves, too.

      I’m so glad you got yourself a copy of IG–it’s so gorgeous. I hope you enjoy that, and this one, too.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, I’d love to hear what you think of this one, Kate! It’s a beautifully crafted book–definitely not one for everybody, but I think you might like it.

  8. Nikki

    Suma sounds like one of those authors that allows the reader to become invested in the WAY the story is being told so much so that it doesn’t really matter how it ends. Clearly, this makes her a master of her craft and haunting imagery is something I can really appreciate. The subject matter is so emotionally driven and compelling that you can’t help but to be drawn in. I really look forward to checking this one out, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly, Nikki! You’ve described her writing perfectly, and it sounds like you haven’t even read her books yet, hah. I bet you’d appreciate your work, though–please do give this and/or IMAGINARY GIRLS a try when you get the chance.

  9. Candace

    Imaginary Girls didn’t work for me. I know she writes amazingly well and has a gorgeous style, but it just was too… something. Confusing maybe? I don’t know.
    Anyway, this has a really interesting premise, I’m definitely very curious about it. I’m glad that it worked very well for you!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, IG had a very smoke and mirrors style–and this book is written in the same way, Candace. But I will say that there is more of a resolution at the end of this book, if that helps any!

  10. molly @ wrapped up in books

    oh, I’m very excited about this one, and with your hint at something that is well-researched but would give the story away if you revealed what it is has me even more intrigued!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohhh yes–I’m surprised no one has asked about that, hah. I want to talk about that when people have had a chance to actually read the book, but I guess it’ll have to be on GoodReads so we can spoiler-tag everything.

      The “twist” is really interesting.

  11. Kara_Malinczak

    OMG yay! So glad this one has your seal of approval, Wendy. I have it coming up for review soon and I cannot wait now. I was excited before, but now? My head is about to explode. :D

    • Wendy Darling

      I should come up with a Wendy Seal of Approval, hah. I’m excited that you already have a copy! I will be on the sidelines with popcorn waiting for that explosion. :D :D :D

    • Wendy Darling

      It was one of my most-anticipated for 2012 too, Leanna! So glad it’s almost here and everyone can get a copy soon.

  12. A Canadian Girl

    I loved Imaginary Girls and the writing of this one seems like it’s very similar to Nova’s debut. So, yes, I will definitely be reading this one :D

    • Wendy Darling

      I would guess that if you loved IG, you’ll love this, Z. :) Although I think DANI NOIR (or FADE OUT, as it was formerly called) was actually her debut! That’s one I have to read, too.

  13. Livvy

    I’m glad this one delivered Wendy. Particularly on two elements that are always vital, research especially to make a novel more realistic.

    It sounds particularly gripping, so I am incredibly eager to get my hands on a copy.

    Tremendous review, Wendy! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, it’s weird, because the novel feels very dreamy and unrealistic (the mood I talked about in the review), but you can tell that the author did her homework. It’s an interesting dichotomy, but definitely gripping.

  14. Jasprit

    I’ve had my eye on this book for ages Wendy, so I’m so glad that it delivered. Nothing makes a book more worthwhile when the author has created such a realistic read! I think I will definitely have to pre-order this gorgeous book! Lovely review Wendy! :)

  15. Karielle Stephanie

    This one sounds rather chilling! Your first paragraph took my breath away. The fact that this book fictionalizes the “missing” is both frightening and fascinating; will have to check this one out.

    ♥ Karielle @ Books à la Mode

  16. Tanja - Tanychy

    Oh Wendy..it takes only one sentence of your review and I’m already in love with this book. Really “While I was reading 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma, I felt as though someone had taken me by the hand and was leading me into a dream state where realities were blurred and paranoia was a constant state of being.” – I’m sold! Can’t wait to read this book. Sounds really amazing! Great review :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Just ONE sentence?! If I’d known that was all it would take, I should have just stopped there. ;)

      Thanks Tanja, I hope you get a chance to read it soon.

    • Wendy Darling

      Get thee to a bookstore, Christy! Hee hee. I am a huge fan of this author’s work and after loving two of her books, she has a fan in me for life.

    • Wendy Darling

      It definitely keeps you guessing until the end, Anastasia. There’s a twist which some people may not like, but I personally loved it.

  17. Kim Trotter

    Fantastic review. I absolutely love Nova Ren Suma. When I read Imaginary Girls, I was so amazed by her writing and how easily I could slip into her world. It’s so beautiful. I was so excited for this book, I hoped that I’d feel that way again, and I’m glad that your review seems to say it will. I’ve already pre-ordered this book. So excited to read it!

    • Wendy Darling

      The writing seems so effortless, and yet you can see how artfully everything is crafted–I would be very curious to see what her writing process/drafts are like.

      I hope you love this just as much as IMAGINARY GIRLS, Kim!

  18. Sharon ObsessionwithBooks

    This one sounds really interesting! It makes such a difference when a book is researched and written in a way that draws you into the story and leaves you needing more. I’m pleased to read you really enjoyed this.

    A fabulous review Wendy! :)

  19. KikiD

    I am so happy you enjoyed this book! I am a bit iffy on Imaginary Girls, but since she did research it’ll probably show! Plus, I can’t help myself when it comes to thrillers ;)

    • Wendy Darling

      I loved it, Kiki! This one does have more…solid plot points, so that may appeal more to people who were so-so on IG. :) Just remember it’s a psychological thriller, not a flat-out action thriller, though. :)

  20. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    Wow, this one sounds awesome, yet heartbreaking! 800,000 is almost a million, I guess I never really thought of how big a number that is. I like the idea that while this book is for entertainment, it also deals with such an important issue, I really appreciate books that can do that without seeming preachy. Sounds like a winner! Great review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yes, this isn’t a book where facts and figures are thrown at you so that you know Research Has Been Done. You can just tell because of the way the author spends the time to honor the missing girls by showing us brief glimpses of their lives, even if it is in a fictional way.

  21. Renu

    I am huge fan of psychological thrillers, but for some reason when I came across this one GR it didn’t spark my attention. Definitely interested in it now, though. Thanks for the brilliant review!

    • Wendy Darling

      I love psychological thrillers even more than I love mysteries, Renu–getting into a character’s head is so interesting. I’m glad the book has caught your interest!

  22. Amy

    I love a well researched story. It makes a huge difference when reading. I am going to be reading this soon and am so excited for it. It’s been getting fab reviews, and if you really enjoyed it, I know I will. Awesome review Wendy!

  23. Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews

    I’m so happy you enjoyed this one, Wendy. I was also completely blown away by Imaginary Girls, particularly by Suma’s writing. I am so, so excited to finally get to read 17 & Gone.

    • Wendy Darling

      Wasn’t IG beautiful?! I am still awed when I think about it. I am thrilled to hear you are a fellow Nova fan–I can’t wait to hear what you think of this one!

  24. Eve

    This book has been on my to-read list since I first saw it on Goodreads. Glad to know it’s going to be worth it. Your mention of the biggest pros in the book – the writing and the research – made me even more impatient for the book!

    Makes me wish March 21 was yesterday .__.

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw, just a few short weeks and it can be yours, Eve! I have so much admiration for how this story was crafted, I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

  25. Joyous Reads

    Lovely review for a what seems like a dark read. There are authors that intimidate me and Nova Ren is one of them. I think it’s why I haven’t really given much thought to reading Imaginary Girls. Daunting read and I know I’m missing a lot. Can I just live vicariously through you? :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Intimidate you…? Pourquoi? I feel like she writes with such a mature, literary style that it might not be something all readers connect with, but from what I know of your taste you might enjoy this! Especially since you read a lot of adult fiction in addition to YA.

      So no, I refuse to accept the vicarious living, at least until you’ve tried it. ;)

  26. Andrea @The Bookish Babes

    My gosh, Wendy! You have me hooked. I’m a sucker for books that steal me away, and the subject seems fascinating. I am so excited to read 17 & Gone now!!
    Gorgeous review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Yay, we’ve reeled another one in! Hee hee. I am really excited to hear what you think of this, Andrea. I hope you love it. *crosses fingers*

  27. Rachel

    This has been on my radar for a while, Wendy. It sounds like a creepily wonderful story. Love seeing your 4.5 stars. If you think highly of it, it must be good.

    On a side note I’ve been the worst bloggy friend lately! I’ve been frantically preparing for a trip to Europe (we leave tomorrow am) and trying to work full-time and fulfill reviewing obligations at the same time! Eeeek! So, sorry if I’ve been missing around here lately! I’ll catch up with everyone when I get back. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohhh Rachel! I would love to hear what you think of this one–part of me thinks you’d love it, but part of me is hesitant to say so, hah.

      And oh goodness, don’t worry. I’ve been in such a slump reviewing-wise for the past couple of weeks, and I haven’t done much blog visiting at all, either. My usual MO is to swoop in and do massive blog reading chunks at once, anyway.

      Have a wonderful time in Europe! My goodness, I will have to keep an eye out for your photos when you get back. Any chance you’re meeting up with Jasprit while you’re there? :)

  28. Keertana

    I’m so glad you loved this one, Wendy! In all honesty, though, I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up. I adored the writing of Imaginary Girls, but the actual plot and ending disappointed me. I think I may enjoy this more because of the facts and research, opposed to strange blend of fantasy/paranormal/contemporary, but I’ll wait for it to arrive in my library first, I believe. Nevertheless, amazing review, Wendy! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about IMAGINARY GIRLS, Keertana. I will say that this one has a little more of what you could call solid action points/plot, so maybe you’ll like it better. There’s also less ambiguity by the end, if that helps. ;)

  29. Giselle

    Ooh yes I’m so excited for this one and when an author really does their research it SHOWS! Look at the Feed series for instance! That story is insanely researched and you can tell by how intricate the world and everything is! I will be reading this one soon and If I love it as much as I’m expecting I’ll be reading Imaginary Girls next which I just got for myself a few weeks ago! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, similarly to Newsflesh, the research is clearly there, but it’s integrated into the story extremely well, so you don’t even notice until you’re done. I hope you love it, Giselle!

  30. Sunny Duvall

    Wow. Just wow. You always suck me in with your reviews, but seriously, how you started it just blew me away. I’ll stop blog-fan-girling now :)

    The book sounds captivating and wonderful! Writing style is always a huge must and to hear you say it was great makes me put it on my TBR list. I also give a thumbs up for research.

    Love the review!

    • Wendy Darling

      Ohh, thank you, Sunny! My head will swell up with such flattery.

      I adore this book and adore this author–I am so glad you’re going to give her books a try.

  31. Mary @ BookSwarm

    God, there’s just something about a master storyteller, isn’t there? How they wrap you up in the story, weave a tale that keeps you so entranced that you emerge a completely different person (or so it feels)…amazing when you can find a book and a writer to accomplish this.

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly! It doesn’t even matter what they’re writing about, in some ways. I remember the author asking on Twitter awhile back how people felt about first person, present tense narratives, and I answered that I normally hated it. But in the hands of a gifted writer, all the rules go out the window.

  32. Melinda Belle Harrison

    When I read Imaginary Girls, I thought, this is the best YA writer out there as far as craft. Her gift for language and emotion is incredible. I have a lot of books I want to read this year, and this one is at the top. Thanks for the incredible review. Loved it.

    • Wendy Darling

      I agree–the complexity and subtlety of her writing is unlike any other YA author’s that I’ve read, Melinda. When you look back on the book after reading it, they seem to be such simple stories, so it’s really her gorgeous writing and mastery of psychological tension that make her books so compelling. I hope you enjoy this one as much as IG!

  33. Melliane

    Oh the wonderful writing style? it’s always a nice surprise. I’m glad you liked this one, it’s a new discovery for me.

  34. Kelly

    Gah, you have made me so excited for this!! I’ve got a copy to read, but I’ve got a book and a half ahead of it. I’m so happy to hear that this is well-done – gives me something to really look forward to!

    • Wendy Darling

      Hah, I’m glad it’s just a book and a half queued in front of it, Kelly–I suppose we can allow that. ;) I have my fingers crossed you will love this as much as I did!

  35. Sam

    Fantastic review, Wendy! I loved the atmospheric, dream-like quality of Suma’s Imaginary Girls, and I’m glad to hear that this book is just as magical. Even better that it’s well-researched. It makes the world of difference most of the time when it’s clear that the author actually knows what he or she is writing about. I can’t wait to start this now! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      SAM, I can’t wait for you to read this! This one is so different, and yet it has a similar intangible mood as Imaginary Girls. And yes, the research is so well done, but interwoven so seamlessly that you don’t even notice until the book is over and you really think about what you’ve just read. Well done indeed.

      I will be stalking you when you start reading this. ;)

  36. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    I have this one to read and I’m excited. I bought Imaginary Girls recently and am hoping to get to that too.
    Great review — and thanks for stopping by :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ooo, I’m glad you have a copy, Jen! Of both books. IG was one of my top 10 books of 2011 and I loved this, too–I hope you love her writing just as much.

    • Wendy Darling

      It has a very subtly creepy feel, Mel–more “something is terribly wrong here” than the more jump-out-of-the-closet type of scare.

      And yes, her research is obvious, though not hammered in and sticking out like a loose nail, if you know what I mean.

  37. LisaFicTalk

    Stop selling me on books that I have no time to reeeeeeead, Wendy… *pout*

    I kid, I think I already added this to my 153458853513515 books that I have left to read. *le sigh*

    Great review as usual, Wends. :D

  38. LisaFicTalk

    Stop selling me on books that I have no time to reeeeeeead, Wendy… *pout*

    I kid, I think I already added this to my 153458853513515 books that I have left to read. *le sigh*

    Great review as usual, Wends. :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh come on, Lisa–just quit your job, forget making dinner, and just read everything I recommend. You know it’ll make us both happy. ;)