'If I could take all the machine guns in the world and bend them into hearts, I totally totally would, even if I got grazed by bullets in the process, which knowing me I probably would, because I'm a little bit of a klutz, but Lio thinks I'm cute.'
'I love you, you fucking idiot, and I love you crazy and I love you sane, so will you please answer my emails?'
'One woman is not very many. Nine dead people, total, is not very many. But my stomach hurts so hard.'
'Something about the fact that he asked me if I was in New York, and I'm not in New York, and then he says he misses me even though I'm here, I'm just not here with him...I think I understand for the first time what it means to be in a relationship.'
From the moment I first read BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz, I knew I would read each consecutive novel she ever releases. Gone, Gone, Gone (from this point on referred to as GGG) is my 4th Moskowitz read (Break, Invincible Summer & Zombie Tag being her first three novels). As usual, I was NOT disappointed! Moskowitz continues to pepper her wonderfully real YA and MG novels with poignant heart-achingly awesome life. She is a master at instilling her readers with an emotional attachment to the worlds of her characters. An absolute master.
One of the things I love about GGG is the dual first-person narration. This is something that--as an author--I have used twice myself. Something about the dual first-person viewpoint really gives the reader such great insights into a story. With GGG the two main characters, Craig and Lio, take turns narrating chapters. Moskowitz carries out this back and forth narration flawlessly. One never forgets which of the two characters are narrating, as each are wonderfully unique.
GGG opens with Craig discovering that not only was his house broken into, but his menagerie of house pets have all escaped through the broken windows. Through this discovery, the reader begins to sense a slight brokenness in Craig...an endearing brokenness. We are also introduced to Todd, Craig's older brother. What would a Moskowitz novel be without an extraordinary brother/brother relationship! I still don't know how she does it. The reader gets a quick picture of this relationship in the way that Todd checks up on Craig, shows concern for him. There's this wonderful line in the first chapter that really captures something of their relationship. 'Todd has this way of being affectionate that I see but usually don't feel.'
The reader is also made aware in the opening chapter that 9/11 plays a prominent role in the story-line. The denizens of GGG are all on edge from the freshness of the terrorist attacks. Lio is from New York, newly settled in Maryland. While he deals with the memories of New York's version of 9/11 events, Craig struggles with the D.C. area's version--which included the death of his ex-boyfriend's father in the Pentagon. The story begins only 13 months after the towers fell. The raw nerves the characters display get re-electrified with a new fear as the DC sniper shootings begin.
To quickly describe the plot of GGG, it opens with an animal hoarding Craig. Apparently he is replacing his boyfriend (and his social life) with a menagerie of fury friends. He acts as something of a Welcome Wagon spokesperson for his school. He is assigned Lio, who is transferring to his school from New York. Their relationship begins in IM, but quickly develops from there. Lio is a boy who can possibly be fixed, unlike Craig's messed up institutionalized boyfriend Cody...who never recovered from his father's 9/11 death. Lio lived through cancer and had a twin brother who did not make it through his own cancer ordeal. Lio is as messed up as his multi-coloured hair. Something about him re-ignites Craig's life. Just as something about Craig re-ignites Lio's desire to speak, to engage in life.
"His tragic flaw is that he is a walking tragedy, and his smile makes me feel alive." ~ Craig, describing Lio.
As the two form a relationship, they struggle to live in a world gone mad with the random shooting spree of the Beltway Sniper. As everyone around them ducks and weaves to avoid being shot at, they slowly come together amid the chaos. Still dealing with the emotional fallout of 9/11, the two go about their lives trying not to become victims of the sniper. All the while, they are trying to reassemble Craig's gone, gone, gone menagerie. There are some wonderful moments in the story where the boys put everything down to mathematics---the odds of becoming a sniper victim, the differences in the number of tragic deaths in New York as compared to those in D.C.. We are made aware through character growth that the figures don't matter, that numbers don't matter. That each life lost is a life lost, come what may. There is something just achingly familiarly and melancholic in the insights we are given through the eyes of these two boys in love.
These two boys each have pasts to unravel and come to terms with. Doing so amid the re-collection of Craig's menagerie and the simultaneously unnerving sniper attacks makes for an exciting pace that will engage the reader non-stop. I read this novel in just over a day. Not unlike Moskowitz's other books, I just couldn't put it down. She writes with a rawness that makes the reader right at home inside both the tragedies and the joys of her stories. I highly recommend Gone, Gone, Gone. If you are not yet a Moskowitz fan, if you have yet to stumble upon her fiction, this book will bring you in hook, line and sinker. Be prepared, though. You'll want to pick up the rest of her quickly growing catalogue of work.