1717 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
Release Date: March 21, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: NetGalley
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

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.

This one sounds like a pretty typical supernatural novel, but it definitely is not. Do not go into this one expecting happy fun times with ghosts and romance. This one is deep and scary and confusing. We don’t get the full story at first, and we don’t get all of our questions answered. Lauren is a bit of an unreliable narrator, so there are things you learn that are contradicted later. Nova Ren Suma doesn’t tie all the threads up into a bow at the end, and it was so much better that way. This novel is heart-wrenching and intense, and I really highly recommend it to everyone. The way things are described was so haunting, so surreal, that I felt like I was dreaming while reading. As I told Ashley, this novel is one long angst parade, with absolutely no payoff. There is no romance to speak of, though Lauren does have a boyfriend. There are no friendships, though Lauren once had girls she hung out with. And the shocking truth from the summary? It really is quite shocking! I didn’t even suspect while reading, but once it’s revealed, the novel starts making more sense. And really, in hindsight, you’ll get it. Things that don’t add up, things we learn that turn out to be wrong. This one will stick with me for awhile, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a reading experience like this one, one in which I am navigating the unknown, floating along as if in a dream, or as if I am truly in Lauren’s head, or maybe I am Lauren herself. I felt emotionally drained every time I put this book down (which wasn’t often), like I’d been experiencing everything Lauren had.

And I cannot review any better than this without spoiling, so if that’s your thing, follow me under the cut!

Warning! Here be spoilers.

Lauren has schizophrenia. She has to. We find out that she isn’t seeing these things at all, that they are not visions. They are symptoms of a disease that often manifests itself in adolescence, and she is obsessed. Not obsessed in the benign, Justin Beiber way, but obsessed in a life-altering, time-consuming, self-punishing kind of way. Lauren becomes someone else, someone no one recognizes. And it’s terrifying, really. When she’s in the hospital, I kept thinking, “I should have figured this out. It all makes so much sense.” But I didn’t, and I don’t think a lot of people will, and that’s what makes this book and Suma’s writing so good. The house in which she meets the girls is the house Fiona Burke grew up in, Fiona Burke who almost controls Lauren from beyond the grave, malicious, heartless Fiona Burke. Lauren can’t control her, and she isn’t benign like Abby, like Natalie. Fiona is frightening because Lauren has no control over her, which becomes even scarier when we learn Lauren never really heard Fiona’s voice at all.

There is a frustration factor though, once you realize what’s happening. Lauren needs help. Help from someone, anyone. You realize she has an illness, and you want someone to help her, you want to help her, but all you can do is watch her be slowly taken over by ghosts who were never there. Watch how she stares off into space, seeing invisible things, hearing soundless voices. Watch as she drifts away, away from you and away from everyone who loves her. I felt awful for her poor boyfriend, Jamie, who did nothing wrong and was just a casualty of this growing obsession. And watching Lauren’s relationship with her mother fall apart was heartbreaking. The voices in Lauren’s head were malicious, telling her to block out anyone who wasn’t them, that she didn’t need anyone but them, the voices, the girls who needed her help.

And the ending isn’t that satisfying! But can it be? Considering schizophrenia is a disease that takes years to diagnose and lasts a lifetime, could we really expect there to be an ending that tied up all the loose threads? I don’t think so. All I know is I have to read the rest of this author’s books NOW.