Tuesday, January 1, 2013

When She Was Gone

Expected Publication:  March 19th, 2013
When She Was Gone
By: Gwendolen Gross
Gallery Books
ISBN-13: 9781451684742

Tom Perotta’s Little Children meets Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones in this suspenseful and beautifully wrought story of a seventeen-year-old girl who vanishes on the eve of her departure for college, as told through the alternating perspectives of her neighbors.

Seventeen-year-old Linsey Hart disappears the day before she’s due to leave for college. As her neighbors piece together what they saw and what they think they know about the missing girl, their long-held secrets, prejudices, and entanglements become rudely evident.

There’s Linsey’s mother, Abigail, whose door-to-door searching makes her social outcast status painfully obvious; stay-at-home mom Reeva, whose primary concern is covering up the affair she’s been having with the Starbucks barista; Mr. Leonard, a reclusive retired piano teacher—and the last person to see Linsey alive; George, an eleven year-old gifted loner who is determined to find out what happened to Linsey; and Timmy, Linsey’s ex-boyfriend, who is left grieving as he embarks on his own college career.

     Linsey Hart is seventeen years old, freshly graduated from high school and getting ready to go study at Cornell University.  Until she vainshes, seemingly into thin air, this seems like a sure thing.  Now her Mom and Step-Dad must rely on the observations of neighbors, investigation of the police and their own private detective to piece together what happened to Linsey.  Who knows something that could solve the mystery?  Everyone is important including Abby (Linsey's Mom, who is detached from the rest of the neighbors), Mr. Leonard (a retired piano teacher who watched over her), Reeva (the woman she babysat for), George (a neighborhood boy who makes collages of everyone with clandestine pictures and fragments), and Timmy (Linsey's ex-boyfriend, that she broke up with on behalf of her Mom's wishes).  I thought going into this, hoped even, that it would live up to it's comparison to The Lovely Bones and to a point it did.   I enjoyed all of the different points of view from each neighbor and their individual lives/dramas that play out in the backdrop of Linsey's disappearance.  I liked the fact that Linsey DID leave a note in the mailbox, but it blew away and caused to whole uproar over her being gone.  The cover representing a creased note, with running ink is one I hope stays into the final printing.   It really represents the book to a tee.  Each individual character was drawn beautifully and I especially found myself caring about Reeva, who is having an affair with a Starbucks barista only a few years older than her teen daughter.  Her confusion and utter wrongness appealed to me on a base level.  I also felt for George who was ostracized and forced to live in his art for human contact beyond his family, who didn't understand him either.  I was NOT a fan of the book being written in entirely lowercase letters.  It was truly annoying to me as a reader, who doesn't necessarily care about artistic license when trying to read and comprehend something.  I also felt like the book had lots of build-up, with a crappy and anti-climactic ending.  It portrayed Linsey, who we came to care about and think of as an essentially good person, as a selfish and immature brat who has no concept of love.  The friendship between Jordan (the barista/genius/music prodigy) and Mr. Leonard (a creepy old man who writes music, plays piano obsessively, and dresses in his dead female relative's clothing) who is dying of colon cancer, to have sprung up from nowhere.  The reactions of all the neighbors at Leonard's funeral had me scoffing in disbelief and snarling at the hypocrisy.  All of them crying over an old man they basically ignored, except to occasionally mentally acknowledge his brilliance or be annoyed by his late night/early morning piano playing.  I loved the first half of the novel, but the second half was a major disappointment.  I wish ?I hadn't wasted my time on yet another mediocre book.

VERDICT:  2.5/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via Edelweiss. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 19th, 2013.*

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