Good and Gone – Megan Frazer Blakemore – HarperTeen – Published 14 November 2017
When Lexi Green’s older brother, Charlie, starts plotting a road trip to find Adrian Wildes, a famous musician who’s been reported missing, she’s beyond confused. Her brother hasn’t said a nice word to her or left the couch since his girlfriend dumped him months ago—but he’ll hop in a car to find some hipster? Concerned at how quickly he seems to be rebounding, Lexi decides to go along for the ride.
Besides, Lexi could use the distraction. The anger and bewilderment coursing through her after getting dumped by her pretentious boyfriend, Seth, has left her on edge. As Lexi, Charlie, and their neighbor Zack hit the road, Lexi recalls bits and pieces of her short-lived romance and sees, for the first time, what it truly was: a one-sided, coldhearted manipulation game. Not only did Seth completely isolate her, but he took something from her that she didn’t give him permission to.
The farther from home they get, the three uncover much more than empty clues about a reclusive rocker’s whereabouts. Instead, what starts off as a car ride turns into an exploration of self as each of them faces questions they have been avoiding for too long. Like the real reason Charlie has been so withdrawn lately. What Seth stole from Lexi in the pool house. And if shattered girls can ever put themselves back together.
Wow. What a tangle of emotions. In the best way. There is an unguarded truth to this story, an earnest rawness that is at times hilarious and heartbreaking. It touches on so many important points – unhealthy abusive relationships, mental health and depression, and when it is time to let go and when it is important to hang on with all your might.
When Lexi’s brother Charlie suggests a road trip to locate missing pop star, Adrian Wildes, Lexi is shocked. Charlie hasn’t moved from the couch since he broke up with his girlfriend and dropped out of college. So despite Lexi’s scepticism, despite the hurt she has been feeling, she agrees. Along for the ride (and actually providing the means of transport for this road trip) is their neighbour, Zack. As Lexi, Charlie, and Zack hunt for the elusive pop star, they begin to work through the emotions, hurt, and actions of the past year.
Lexi doesn’t start as a very likeable character. She is angry, judgemental, hurting. She doesn’t want to understand what her brother is going through or feeling, she just wants him back to his old self. But as I kept reading, I began to understand that her attitude stems from her own hurt. Her lack of understanding isn’t malicious, she just doesn’t understand. And that’s okay. That’s all part of her journey. And this book is all about journeys. A road trip journey across north eastern USA. A journey to find a missing pop star. A journey of sibling relationships. A journey over the past six months, from then to now, detailing Lexi’s new view of the world, relationships, men and herself. A journey that encounters many characters and places, as road trips often do.
The story is written from Lexi’s perspective, and as such, readers are presented with her side of the story. Her thoughts towards her brother might not be agreeable to the average reader, but they are Lexi’s and her journey to understanding him, understanding herself are so important. The chapters also switch between the present events and the past, as ‘Now’ and ‘Before’. The Before sections jump around a little, but it gradually becomes clear that Lexi has recently experienced an abusive and manipulative relationship, has lost her friends and has survived an assault. It makes her suspicion about life and strangers, her want to help others, her inability to connect with her brother so much clearer. I enjoyed watching Lexi’s growth and character development. I also really, really loved her snark. Her verbal remarks, her conversations with her mother has me ROFL. Literally. (Sorry, that’s an inside joke, but it certainly brought a refreshing humour to the story.)
There is no romance in this book. At first I thought Zack, the neighbour who accompanies Lexi and Charlie on their road trip, would be a romantic interest for Lexi. But it’s made clear very early on that this isn’t going to happen – Zack is gay – and for that I am glad. It was better that relationships in general and not just a romantic one, take the focus. Relationships that are healthy and unhealthy, relationships that span months and relationships that happen in just a few hours. Relationships that must be ended and relationships that are worth fighting for, worth everything, no matter what.
Good and Gone surprised me with its depth and the raw, unguarded way in which it presents its story. It’s messy and a little icky (just like the backseat of Zack’s car), but it’s also honest, and that makes it a strong and important book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abusive relationships, road trips, manipulation, siblings, friendship, broken relationships, rape, sexual assault, pop stars.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, vague descriptions of sex scene and references to rape. References to strippers. Strong coarse language, f*** (12), sh** (21), sl**(3), bit** (15), dy** (2), pis* (4), ass**** (8). References to drug use and abuse.
Published: 14 November 2017 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 304 pages.