Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Review: Then You Were Gone by Lauren Strasnick

Title: Then You Were Gone
Author: Lauren Strasnick
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: January 8th 2013
Pages: 224
Genre: Young Adult contemporary mystery
Source: Bought
Two years ago, Adrienne’s best friend, Dakota, walked out of her life. One week ago, she left Adrienne a desperate, muffled voicemail. Adrienne never called back.
Now Dakota is missing, and all that remains is a string of broken hearts, a flurry of rumors, and a suicide note.
Adrienne can’t stop obsessing over what might have happened if she’d answered Dakota’s call. And she’s growing more convinced each day that Dakota is still alive.
Maybe finding and saving Dakota is the only way Adrienne can save herself.
Or maybe it’s too late for them both.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I read Lauren Strasnick's Nothing Like You a while ago and had conflicting feelings about it: I really liked the idea, but I couldn't connect to the writing style. Still, I gave Then You Were Gone a try because the story sounded so good. However, my feelings about Then You Were Gone were pretty much the same as what I thought about Nothing Like You: I loved the plot and the idea, but the writing style didn't work for me and kept me from really connecting with the characters.

I loved the mystery in Then You Were Gone; I loved trying to figure out what could have happened to Dakota and how it relates to Adrienne. And even though I'm usually disappointed by the endings to mysteries like these - too often, they're too unrealistically-happy for me - I loved the resolution to this one: it's the perfect balance of realistic and hopeful, and it works really well for the story.

Like I said, though, the writing kept me from enjoying anything deeper than the mystery plot. Lauren Strasnick's writing is very sparse and relies heavily on dialogue. It feels wrong to criticize that because there are many novels in which I have enjoyed a more sparse writing style because it leaves more of the interpretation up to the reader, but with a story that relies so much on emotions, I wanted the writing to be a lot more fleshed-out. I understand why the author would choose to write so sparsely about Adrienne's emotions - to show her disconnect with herself and whatnot - but it still kept me from really connecting with the story.

The characters had a lot of potential. I really enjoyed the dynamics of Adrienne's and Dakota's past friendship and now non-relationship; both of them are fascinating characters. But 'fascinating' is pretty much where my appreciation of the characters stops; because the sparse writing style made me feel so distant from the story, I never gained enough insight into the characters or their motivations to really get to know them.

Really, that's all there is to it: Lauren Strasnick's writing just isn't my cup of tea. I really liked the idea and the plot, but the writing kept me from ever really connecting with the characters and the emotional side of the story. If you like sparse writing, you should give this one a try, but I think I might be giving up on Lauren Strasnick's writing.


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