Message Not Found

Message Not Found
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Release Date
March 29, 2022
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An emotionally complex portrayal of secrets, loss, and grief from Dante Medema, Indies Introduce author of the Indie Next Pick title The Truth Project.

Bailey and Vanessa shared everything: laughter, secrets, and packets of Pop Rocks to ward off bad days. But that all changed the night Vanessa left Bailey's, headed for home, and ended up swerving off a cliff nowhere near her house. Now Bailey, who thought she knew Vanessa better than anyone in the world, is left with a million unanswered questions, and the only person with answers is gone.

To help grieve her loss, Bailey creates a chat bot of Vanessa using years' worth of their shared text messages and emails. The more data she uploads to the bot, the more it feels like she's really talking to her best friend. That is, until the bot starts dropping hints that there was more going on with Vanessa than Bailey realized--a secret so big, it may have contributed to Vanessa's death.

This compelling puzzle of a story, filled with engrossing twists and turns, is written in alternating prose and text message formats. Teens will gobble up this fast-paced page-turner.

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2 reviews
A powerful exploration of grief, technology, and love
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Bailey and Vanessa were best friends. That's why Vanessa was at Bailey's house the night she died, to help cheer her up after a bad day. But when Vanessa left to supposedly go home, she never made it. Her car swerved off of a cliff that wasn't on the way to her house and died. Bailey is now left to grieve and to solve the nagging mystery of why Vanessa was on that road. In an effort to provide some comfort, Bailey creates a chat bot with all of Vanessa's information, texts, emails, etc. But even the bot indicates there was something going on with Vanessa that Bailey didn't know about, and Bailey knows that if she ever wants to move forward, she has to figure it out.

I became a fan of Dante Medema's work after THE TRUTH PROJECT and its on point portrayal of a type 4 enneagram character. While I enjoyed THE TRUTH PROJECT, MESSAGE NOT FOUND blew me out of the water. The sharp, sometimes biting prose highlights how intense grief can be and how hard the world can tilt when you lose someone you love. Bailey’s pain pushes her to cross lines she never would have before. Her journey in healing is extremely realistic, and while time does help her, her progress isn’t linear. She has to figure out how to remember Vanessa as she was, as human as she was, and accept the parts of Vanessa she didn’t know when she was alive, the pieces of her that may have torn them apart.

Possibly my favorite part of MESSAGE NOT FOUND is the fullness of emotion. Even through all the pain, guilt, and grief, Bailey still has experiences that bring her comfort and happiness. Medema manages to capture the complete hurricane of being a person going through something terrible. In some moments, you’re in the eye of the storm with chaos all around that isn’t quite hitting you yet. In others, you’re being battered left and right with debris, and occasionally, you get a beautiful glimpse of the sun that reminds you bright days are still possible. Even though the point of view is only through Bailey, Vanessa and Mason and even Cade are still fully dimensional. Medema is able to show how the relationship between each of the four exists and develops, even when Bailey isn’t directly part of it.

MESSAGE NOT FOUND is a powerful exploration of grief, technology, and love. Highly recommended for fans of Courtney Summers and Kathleen Glasgow.
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