Book Review: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma

Lauren is having visions of other girls who have gone missing.  The only thing they all seem to have in common: they’re all 17 years old.  Lauren is 17, too, so does that mean she could disappear?  As Lauren delves deeper into the lives of these girls before they disappeared, she becomes more and more lost within herself.  How can she help them if she could be next?

Like Nova Ren Suma’s excellent Imaginary Girls, this is a hard one to unpack.  It’s dense and literary and intentionally confusing.  It’s also brilliant, original, and completely challenging.  Not all readers are going to “get” this one, but that’s true of Suma’s earlier work, too.  Those who do might find that this one not only requires a close reading, but lends itself to multiple reads as well.

Lauren is an unreliable narrator of the first degree.  She’s so divorced from herself and reality that her narration actually takes on a brilliant, passive tone.  This isn’t going to work for every reader, and many will claim that they couldn’t “connect” with her.  But isn’t that the entire point of the narrative?  It is.  It also makes it hard for the average reader to get through it.  Lauren is so unreliable and so completely absent from her own world that it becomes almost impossible to discern whether or not any of her hallucinations were grounded in reality.

Twisty, murky, and beautifully written, Nova Ren Suma isn’t writing for everyone, but she is writing for a particular audience, and she’s doing a great job.  This is a thoughtful, thorough exploration of one teen’s descent into madness, and it’s gripping, for sure.  Recommended for readers looking for depth in their YA, whether they themselves are YA or not.

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Dutton Juvenile: 2013.  Purchased copy read for Round 1 of the 2013 Cybils.

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