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Bows & Bullets Book Blog

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Then You Were Gone - Lauren Strasnick While reading this, I mostly didn’t like it. My inner monologue mainly consisted of bitching about how apparently the new trend in YA is depressive contemporary stories with bad endings and that if this turned out to be another one of those books where the point isn’t so much about actually finding the person they are looking for as it is about their journey of self-discovery, I was going to scream and give it a 1 star rating. As you can see by my rating, that is not the case.

Adrienne Knox’s best friend stopped being her BFF two years ago. For no discernible reason, Dakota drops her like a hot potato and Adrienne is left to piece her life back together. Now, Dakota has disappeared and everyone assumes it was a suicide. Adrienne isn’t so sure. Days before her disappearance was discovered, Dakota left Adrienne a voicemail sounding highly upset. Adrienne lets Dakota’s disappearance change her. She starts acting out, being a bitch to her boyfriend, ignoring school work, and generally freaking the fuck out. She strikes up a friendship with Dakota’s bandmate, Julian and together, they try to figure out what really happened to Dakota.

Like I said before, at the beginning, I was ready to write this book off as yet another disappointing contemporary YA with a selfish lead character, but boy did I change my mind. At first, when Dakota first vanishes, I sympathized with Adrienne because losing a friend is hard, even if you haven’t spoken in a long time. But as the book progressed, watching her be a jerk to Kate (her new BFF) and Lee (her boyfriend) even though they were understanding and patient with her, I started to become more than a little irritated. The more she pushes Lee away, the more I screamed at her. Get the fuck over it, Dakota didn’t even speak to you anymore!

Then she starts hanging out with Julian, breaking into Dakota’s house, dressing like a goth girl wannabe, and I become infuriated. Everyone around her tries to help, her mom, her mom’s boyfriend, her teachers, her friends, and her boyfriend. She just pushes them away and starts drinking and smoking and generally being a dick. I didn’t see the beauty in the story until it was almost over. This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t explain it, but it’s spoilery as hell, so I’ll hide it for those who don’t want to see it.

The big reason is that, in the end, she actually does find Dakota. Several hours away, D is holed up in a hotel room, hiding from the rest of the world. The second reason is because I didn’t see the twist coming. The fact that the sweet lit teacher was actually a douche bag who had been sleeping with Dakota for fucking YEARS shocked the fuck out of me. The upstanding teaching with a wife and a new baby apparently wasn’t as upstanding as we all thought. Dakota ran away because she discovered she was pregnant and thought it would be better to deal with it on her own. The subtle romance between Julian and Adrienne also won me over. They end up happily together while Lee has a new girlfriend who treats him better than she did.

This was written in a painstakingly honest way. Even when I was irritated, I felt like I could really see Adrienne’s side of the picture. It doesn’t wrap everything up in a neat little bow because everything doesn’t get resolved with Dakota, but the important stuff does. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a great contemporary read that doesn’t go exactly the way you expect.