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.