Tuesday, March 26, 2013
17 AND GONE by Nova Ren Suma
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.
Nova Ren Suma has quickly established herself - to me, at least - as a writer of the unexpected. As with her last book, IMAGINARY GIRLS, the impression I got from reading the summary was a very different one than I came away with at the end. I would have still loved the story had it played out as a straightforward supernatural mystery, but in Suma's hands, the story becomes something else entirely, and the reader is pulled along with breathtaking, nightmarish urgency.
I think that building tension is one of the hardest skills for a writer to master, as it's so easy to pull that trigger just a little too soon. Suma is a master at letting each scene build to its own crescendo, and knows how to keep the reader just as unsettled and off-kilter as Lauren is. Her talent for creating atmosphere only amplifies the effect, and I could perfectly picture each lonely setting, whether it was the shuttered, off-season summer camp where Abby disappeared all those months ago, or the darkened house Lauren visits in her dreams.
My favorite part, though, was the economy with which Suma characterizes each of the missing girls. Whether it was Abby, Erica, Shyann, or Yoon-mi and Maura, I was riveted to each of their stories, and just as interested in learning their fates as Lauren. Some of them get chapters, and some of them get just a few paragraphs, but with each one, the details Suma leaves out are just as compelling as the ones she includes
To learn more about the story, visit Nova Ren Suma's blog, which is running a fascinating series of posts in which authors talk about the things that haunted them at age 17.