Author: Nova Ren Suma
Genres: YA, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller
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.
We all see the stories on the news now and then about young girls that have gone missing, ones that ran away or were taken somewhere unimaginable. And over time, the young female runaway has become yet another cliché to avoid.
Yet, author Nova Ren Suma resurrects this cliché by transforming it and placing it at the center of her brilliantly written and captivating thriller 17 & Gone. Rather than the than a novel about a teenage girl who physically goes missing into the night, this novel is about a girl who goes missing into her own thoughts and dreams when she begins having visions of girls who have run away or otherwise gone missing from home.
17 & Gone is the story of Lauren, a teenager living in New York state who starts seeing what she believes are the ghosts of girls that have gone missing in her area. An eerie occurrence that started with one girl begins to balloon out of control, forcing Lauren to collapse into herself and neglect the person she was before the girls.
The first missing girl that appears to Lauren is Abigail Sinclair, who starts as a face on a missing person poster on a telephone pole but becomes an obsession. Lauren is positive Abigail did not run away like everyone else seems to think after a series of odd visions from the night Abigail disappeared. As she digs for the truth, more girls start appearing, each with their own harrowing story to tell.
The resulting novel is one not only about Lauren and her journey or about the missing girls, but a story that walks several fine lines: the line between life and death, the line between sanity and insanity, the line between missing and present. 17 & Gone is as much a story about the different tragedies girls face in their adolescence as it is about the dark secret behind Lauren’s own struggle, a secret that will stun the reader.
The beautifully lyrical and descriptive writing style of the novel is instrumental in shaping Lauren’s voice, which readers will find bold, honest and mildly eerie. Her character seems to come to life off the page, leaving readers hooked in anticipation of what happens next.
One of the few faults in this novel is that, while Lauren herself is a fascinating, flawed and complex character, the intriguing and emotional stories of the missing girls she has visions of take control of the stories at times. And while this could be symbolic or a plot device, it takes a bit away from the poignancy of Lauren’s own inner struggles.
Another minor weakness is the use of time in the novel. While most of the novel takes place over a single winter, Lauren’s growing addiction to these girls’ stories feels drawn out at times. There is also a jump in time in the novel, which is necessary for the plot, but flowed more like an afterthought than a seamless addition to the story.
The plot, however, is masterfully constructed and Lauren tells the story in a way that is equally reflective, immediate and suspenseful. Recalling her story in the recent past, Lauren drops hints of what’s to come along the way, things she realizes that she didn’t before. What results is a story that is in itself a girl learning how to recount her own while also remember the stories of others.
Overall, 17 & Gone is a jarringly eerie tale about the lives of missing girls and the one girl who seems to understand their stories. Suma’s daring novel will keep readers up all night and is so suspenseful that they will be gripping the book with white knuckles, relieved and disappointed when they come to its end.
Have you read 17 & Gone? Did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments below!