Book Title: Nearly Gone (Standalone)
Author: Elle Cosimano
Number of pages: 388
Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.
Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.
Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.
(re: Goodreads @ Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
– Riddles and clues galore to be solved involving a large pool of suspects — to me, it reads like a mix between The Zodiac Killer and Criminal Minds
– Narrative pacing is on-point with it’s focused genre and will keep you questioning till the very end with various twists
– Underdeveloped characters; protagonist has book-smarts but lacks the alternative and often leads to making bad decisions
– There’s a paranormal element involving empathy which isn’t fully explored to it’s potential and is easily glossed over
– Romance is a love-square and also involves reformed bad boys, jealousy, and friend-zoning
I had some pretty high expectations with this read being in line with all them crime/mystery/suspense shows I watch on the daily. It’s not nearly as good as I thought it could have been but it wasn’t horrendous if one overlooks some key aspects. Being a murder-mystery centric, sometimes you just have to take that skepticism hat off—or at least lower your inquisitive mind a bit to actually not be particular picky.
Disclaimer: There may be spoilers inherent to this review from this point onward.
Nearly Gone is nearly here or nearly there.
As succinct as I can describe this novel: Nearly Boswell is an intelligible try-hard who’s only hope of getting out of her hellhole of a living situation is to earn a scholarship; for which she is amongst the top three in her chemistry class. Her parents are a tag-team of: a motherly prostitute and a father who’s MIA. Feeling alone with one-half of the parentals, Nearly finds clippings in the Missed Connections (personal classified ads) that may suggest that her father’s still alive. Through checking these classifieds, she begins to notice some unusual messages but doesn’t make much of it until students coincidentally begin to disappear. Following clues with indefinite meaning, Nearly thinks the clues are for her and tries seeking help from the police. They’re skeptical of her potential involvement in the incidents and with their own agenda in tow, send in informant to pose as a student to work double-time with varying goals in mind. From the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, Reece Whelan attempts to befriend her—but Nearly isn’t as stupid as she’s letting on (or so it was apparently made it seem anyways). With only her brain to rely on, she puts on a detective hat and attempts to decipher the clues as events unravel and begin to get more personal.
From a superficial standpoint, the entirety of the narrative is actually pretty well-rounded to fit the bill of being a young-adult mystery/thriller. It’s pacing to build the required tension through the variety of clues should have readers profiling the motives of every character and often attempt to deduce things on a whim based on current knowledge. The specific tropes regarding the mind-boggling clues are well thought-out as (at times) there is a sense of “ohhhh—so that’s what it was…” when things come to light. Yet with the right intuitive mindset, readers may be able to uncover things before Nearly does…so it’s really all in the amount of skepticism put forward to engage the facts for what they are or not. To elaborate, one can consider that each specific case as a small arc in plotting; important facts integral to the current situation at hand but not entirely relevant to the overarching plot. Instead, the indirect outcomes of each case are part of a larger message being relayed: the motive, to which is more difficult to decipher than the case-by-case incidents. In doing so, the narrative essentially eliminates the issue of memory retention as key facts stay relevant to its specific arc.
[She seemed nice enough, but you can’t always judge a person by the parts they choose to show you. Touching someone, getting close, always reveals the darker parts they don’t want you to see.]
Now where do I even begin from a character standpoint?
The bane of this book falls on Nearly Boswell (protagonist) and Reece Whelan (the main love interest). As the lead character, there are many things that worked for and against Nearly. For all the 103-pecentages she can achieve on her tests and her sense of uncovering clues within seconds…she’s not the smartest cookie outside of school. Oh look—an ad that’s rather suspicious…let’s go chase this lead and try to Nancy Drew this crook. Whaaaaaaaat? If I had a dollar for every person in real life who acted on the whim like Nearly, I’d be broke. Its one thing to consider the possibility of someone leaving cryptic clues for you to solve the mysteries of it all but it’s another to blindly run into the darkness flailing a baseball bat like you’re tough shit. Considering that Nearly is not typecast as a “kick-ass and take numbers” heroine, she goes into dire situations very head strong and often gets bailed out by Reece. Sigh. Regardless of her horrid past growing up, Nearly is just a difficult character to tangibly root for. I found myself rooting for the idea of a revelation than her actually being the one to solve everything. Which is funny because Nearly thinks she’s some Godsend riddle-solver but this is actually incorrect—she’s the only one who cares enough to attempt to solve everything. I mean…she could have left it to the professionals (you know…the ones with badges who earn a living on this stuff)—but what do I know?
[I captured the pendant between my fingers. A class ring. Class of 2013. North Hampton’s mascot, the hornet, was carved on one side. I turned it over and saw an odd, thorny looking flower that matched Reece’s tattoo.
“What is it?”
“It’s a thistle,” he answered, still frowning over my ensemble.
“Yeah, you know . . . little . . . prickly . . . pain in the ass. It suits you.”]
Reece, on the other hand, is in the same category as all bad-boys who need reform. His predicament to get into close ties with Nearly is one that is slightly better than the randomness of ‘oh, hey, I’m a bad boy—I think you’re cute…be mine?’ I mean at least there was a tinge of substance that linked them together. A tinge. Yet the narrative does downplay the fact that he’s an ex-convicted criminal who just wants to get his shit together and secretly, deep down, has the heart of a teddy bear. The message this instant creeper-lationship tells me is basically: hey…I know you’re young an easily influential but boys who look older than their age and are ex-convicts still, without fail, want to do good in this world…you know? No, I absolutely do not know. In real life, if this shit happened, Nearly could wind up dead but readers of YA are often wishful thinkers, am I right?
In terms of romantic relationships, the idea of a love-triangle was there but wasn’t really concrete enough to come into fruition. Actually, maybe it was more like a love square? Does that exist? Well, it does now. The four proponents of this triangle goes like this: Ahn-Jeremy-Nearly-Reece. Ahn (Nearly’s friend and scholarship contender) is seemingly jealous of Jeremy’s (Nearly’s best-and-childhood friend) relationship with Nearly; whom is infatuated with Reece. It’s funny that there’s always this priority given to the new kid in town over the long-standing friendship (and unrequited love) of a heroine’s best guy friend. Oh friend-zone antics, you’re everywhere these days. I just don’t understand this flavour of the month behaviour in shoving aside your best friend. Credit needs to be given where credit is due.
There’s this whole paranormal element of being able to sense the emotions of individuals with a single touch; something we only see Nearly being able to achieve. Um…wha—why?! All this tension-seeking urban (and seemingly slummy) YA-centric mystery-thriller is being built up and now there’s some random paranormal witchy woo-woo thing happening. I mean, sure, if it was properly integrated—cool beans. But what’s the point if it’s completely glossed over? There are so many strikes against this whole plot device that really begs the need for it. For one, Nearly wants to be invisible—it’s her intent to stay a nobody (so why would she go off and start feeling up randoms to gauge their intentions?). Two, she’s quite the precarious protagonist—as I previously mentioned, she’s not the brightest bulb of the lot…so why give her something if she isn’t even going to put her mind to use and even consider the possibility of using her empathy ability. Not to mention that since it was completely underdeveloped, there’s no evidence to support the belief that by touching a sociopath and/or some kid with a murderous intention that she would even be able to gauge the possibility of using this information to be legally admissible as hard evidence. I mean, imagine for a second (not that this is actual text…but it might as well be): “hello officers, I touched him/her and felt that they’re green with envy!”… “but Miss Boswell, all the evidence currently suggests you’re the primary suspect”…hmmm…now what, smarty? I’ve hit a mental brick wall with this one.
On the point of other things that didn’t make much sense: there are many other situations laden throughout the narrative that could have been explained better or are just questionable. From immaculately detailing a situation while in the pitch black of night, the safety hazards of two person sitting in one seat on an amusement park ride, or even calling her mother by the first name—I just needed more context and detailing to make it real, tangible. And what was with her being given a cell phone…then displacing it wherever she goes and never really having it with her—especially during dire situations. Whhhhhhhhhhhy?!
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano is still, without a doubt, an admirable debut novel considering the core grit of the plot devices integrated with the pacing of the novel which made the read difficult to put down. As a cross between scientific inclusions and the urban-mystery, the narrative appealed to me and stylized more of a hybrid between The Zodiac Killer and an episode of Criminal Minds than its true focus of being Bones meets Fringe. If readers can look past the development of characters and see the story for what it is, it’s fairly entertaining…otherwise; you may be left with things to be desired.
[It’s personal. I’ll put it all on the table for you. Are you clever enough to find me in time?]
For an added bonus, I selected a song that I found was quite in line with the happenings of the entire narrative of being obsessed with the need to solve a mystery. You can find the song by being redirected to my Music Monday post here.
//end of much nonsense.
Bam. Another book off of my 2014 top ten debuts list that I wanted to read this year. Certainly enjoyable but not what I was expecting in execution. I should also try to find a potential music monday song for this…