Then You Were GoneFeatured
Then You Were Gone falls into a subset of contemporary fiction I usually do not like one bit, though obviously I did not know this when I requested it. See, Then You Were Gone is about a whole bunch of poor little rich kids living super self-destructive lives because of neglectful parents and all of that jazz. It also features an MC who desperately wishes she could be like her former best friend, Dakota, who is made of magic and sex and rock star glimmer. Neither of these fairly oft-seen plots usually thrills me, but Strasnick's is the best instance of this plot line that I've ever read.
So many books about poor little rich kids spiraling out of control are melodramatic and with this totally bored air, as though they're too good to care about anything even though they're living these shiny lives of desparation. They're whiny and superior and do nothing with so much opportunity. I just find those books so frustrating most of the time.
What Strasnick does differently is the heroine's approach to everything. Where the heroines in such stories tend to lack self-awareness or pity themselves, Adrienne really does not. Adrienne knows she's messing up her life, and she knows there's no one else to place the blame on for that. Adrienne knows she's losing her grip, both in classes and in her romantic life, but cannot seem to stop herself. She has to find out what has happened to her former best friend, a search which leads to her failing even her best class and smoking like a chimney. In the search, she learns a lot about herself and her relationship with Dakota.
Now, even before Adrienne went off the rails after Dakota's disappearance, she and her friends were a whole bunch of hot messes. These kids go through life half-drunk. They throw big pot lucks and drink alcohol supplied by parents, who at least have the foresight to take all of the kids' car keys. At school lunches, they've sometimes sneaked in booze. Adrienne runs with the popular crowd, and that's just what they do, though when she starts slumming with the smokers her position in the A list is threatened.
This book, slight though it is, has plenty to scandalize and shock the reader, but Strasnick approaches these things in a very straightforward way. The writing fits the story well, fairly simple and to the point like Adrienne herself. Strasnick's treatment of her subjects kept the book from straying into some sort of sensationalized Gossip Girl kind of thing, and more of a dark look at real problems some teens have.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I would have liked to see a bit more character development throughout or perhaps have been more grounded in who Adrienne was before Dakota's disappearance. From the beginning of the book, Adrienne has already been thrown for a loop by Dakota leaving her a message before mysteriously disappearing. She's not herself, and this version of Adrienne, is distanced from everything, single-mindedly focused on figuring out what happened. As such, she's hard to emotionally connect with. Such a connection would have thrown her dark spiral into sharper relief.
The Final Verdict:
Then You Were Gone is a quick read that I found to be quite enjoyable and emotionally honest. Strasnick neither condones nor condemns the actions of her characters, and certainly does not romanticize their lifestyle. This novel is stark and dark, an excellent choice for mature teen readers. This was my first experience with Strasnick's work, but I do plan to read more of her work because of how good this is.
Lauren Strasnick has such gorgeous prose. I love her ability at story telling and at writing great characters. The characters in Then You Were Gone were definitely the strength of the book. It also is the more minor scenes, such as time Adrienne spends with Kate that were the most enticing for me. The main storyline I just never completely connected with.
I did enjoy the almost mystery aspect of the plot where Adrienne teams up with Julian trying to figure out what happened to Dakota, yet I was not completely satisfied. I wanted the story to build more. There was just some element missing from the story that left things a bit bland. Lauren Strasnick can sure write an ending! I loved the ending of Then You Were Gone. It was my favorite part of the book as it was just absolutely adorable.
Then You Were Gone is a book for those who love contemporary. While it has its flaws, it is a fast read and has a pretty decent storyline.
Adrienne and Dakota were friends since they were kids but Dakota suddenly drops her without explaining why. Adrienne is an average student with a small group of friends when her former best friend Dakota vanished. Everything is just weirder since Dakota called her a couple of days before disappearing. Some thought she killed herself some didn't but everyone eventually moved on while Adrienne couldn't let it go.
I wouldn't have any problems with A being obsessed Dakota treated her right. But she didn't. Dakota was an awful friend which Adrienne didn't see. Dakota was always this enigmatic girl who did what she wanted all the time and I think she A wanted to be just like her which we can see when she starts wearing similar clothes and starts acting like Dakota.
A starts ignoring her boyfriend and starts hanging around Julian, Dakota's boyfriend, trying to find out what happened. Why was she so determined to find the truth when Dakota was such an awful friend? Well, I think every one of us had a friend who wasn't actually a friend and we desperately tried to please them even though they were never good for us. They eventually find out what really happened and I'm glad they at least have each other in the end.
Adrienne and Dakota haven’t spoken in two years. Dakota has been off singing with her band somewhere, but now she’s missing. The Police found her car, and a possible suicide note, but nobody knows where she actually is.
Now Adrienne is feeling guilty – because Dakota left her a voicemail that she never answered, and feeling sad because she and Dakota were no longer friends.
What really happened to Dakota? And how long will it take Adrienne to come to terms with the fact that Dakota isn’t here anymore?
I’m not really sure what to make of this book. I enjoyed reading it, but now that I’ve got to the end, I’m wondering what the point was.
Adrienne basically spends the whole book feeling guilty, and wondering what happened to Dakota. Wearing Dakota’s clothes, and doing her make-up like Dakota used to. Spending time with Dakota’s sort-of boyfriend Julian, and feeling a bit depressed. She ignores her own boyfriend, forgets her school work, and generally does very little (other than smoke).
The strange thing is that Adrienne and Dakota hadn’t even spoken in two years! Whether this made things better or worse for Adrienne I’m not sure, and why they stopped being friends exactly I’m not sure either.
This books focus seems to be more on how Adrienne feels about Dakota being missing, than what actually happened to Dakota, and the things that Adrienne does in an effort to work through how she really felt about her, and how she can grieve for her, which basically involves a lot of doing nothing other than wearing black and ignoring her friends.
Other than the Dakota storyline, there were a few brief snatches of romance, but nothing much, and Adrienne also spent a little time doing her own sort of investigation into Dakota’s life, which doesn’t really seem to get her very far. There is one small mystery that Adrienne solves, but even that feels a little lack-luster.
All that being said, I did enjoy this book, and it was a quick read. I also liked that the book had a satisfying ending – at the end of the book we know exactly what happened to Dakota – thank you Lauren Strasnick for this!
Overall; an enjoyable YA, focusing on being the one left behind.
7 out of 10.
I liked how Then You Were Gone had snippets from the past friendship of Dakota and Adrienne, showing where Adrienne's feelings came from and helping me to understand that there was something deeper there for her, and trying to understand what made Dakota tick and what exactly ended their friendship. For Adrienne, to me it seemed that it was unresolved and a feeling of guilt, because she got that phone call from Dakota and she didn't know why she was calling, and then came the rumors she was missing and the speculation that she had killed herself.
Adrienne's relationship with Lee was one that I haven't really read one quite like though. I liked Lee for the most part though, because he treated Adrienne very well while she was being herself, but then it did seem to me like he jumped ship pretty quickly and did some questionable things... Not that I am saying that the way that Adrienne treated him was okay, but still. It seemed like a character discrepancy to me because it doesn't seem like something he would do.
While we have the weird relationship between her and Lee, and the lost friendship and almost worship of Adrienne towards Dakota, Lauren Strasnick also paints a beautiful picture of true frienship between Adrienne and Kate. Kate is a truly likeable character and I appreciate how she supports Adrienne and is there for her and pushes her at the right time. She also has a mouth on her that provides some tension relief for both the reader and Adrienne at the right moments.
Although this book is a quick read and relatively short, don't let it fool you, it packs a lot of plot, a lot of emotion, a healthy pinch of sarcasm and humor, and explores the workings of friendships and relationships and the effects of grief on your life.
Then You Were Gone is for mature teens, because it has drug use, underage drinking, cursing, sex and foreplay and other mature themes that I can't mention without spoiling the plot... Which disturbed me by the way, the unmentioned, but I totally think that it is an important issue to address... And see the ways NOT to handle it.
Bottom line: Quick and hard hitting story about grief and friendship, both the loss of and the true definition of it.