A Sweet and Tragic Tale
Losing Gabriel by Lurlene McDaniel is a story full of love, loss, and hope. The book follows the lives of three main characters, Lani Kennedy, Dawson Berke, and Sloan Quentin, who begin the novel as seniors in high school. However, their lives are about to change for better, worse, and most of all, unexpectedly. The story unfolds over the course of about four years, with the book jumping forward in time quite a bit. These time hops give the characters space to grow and really come of age. Additionally, the author does a great job of weaving the plotline between the three as they enter into adulthood and face the challenges that come with it.
The book is written in third-person omniscient, limited only by which character is being highlighted at the time. For instance, one chapter could be about Sloan singing with her band, leaving the readers guessing about Dawson and Lani, or vice-versa. McDaniel balances this all out quite nicely, which makes me care equally about the characters and keeps me curious as to what will happen next. The decision to use third-person point-of-view as opposed to flipping back and forth between first-person really aided the storytelling. It also made the ‘information dump’ at the beginning of the novel work organically and naturally, which oftentimes is disrupting in first-person narratives.
The story itself, however, is not for the fainthearted. It is very heavy and deals with traumatic situations, such as death, drugs, teenage pregnancy, accidents, and illness. The author, whose goal is to write “inspirational novels about teenagers facing life-altering situations…,” is quoted in her author’s biography, saying “I want kids to know that while people don’t get to choose what life gives to them, they do get to choose how they respond.” True to her intentions, she throws her characters in some of the toughest events a human can face. She does not sugarcoat the circumstances or her characters’ reactions. As a result, the characters seem authentic and relatable. In other words, the inspiration McDaniel’s achieves does not come from showcasing perfect behavior in the midst of tragedy, but rather from the fact that despite all the hardships, these people keep on living.
Ultimately, I would have loved to read more about Lani and Dawson at the end of the book and to have seen them a bit more settled by the conclusion. However, the final scene goes out on a very sweet and tender note with Sloan, leaving her in the process of “figuring it out,” like many of us. Overall, Losing Gabriel is incredibly cathartic for those who have faced similar problems. Moreover, it is well-written, full of heart, and absolutely worth the time it takes to read.