Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Contemporary YA Appreciation Week - "Gone Gone Gone" by Hannah Moskowitz

In the wake of the post-9/11 sniper shootings, fragile love finds a stronghold in this intense, romantic novel from the author of Break and Invincible Summer.
It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge and trying to make sense of these random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives. 
Craig’s crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he’ll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody. 
Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable...and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

Hannah Moskowitz has been on my TBR radar since her first book so the opportunity to read an ARC of her third book a year before its official release, thanks to Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab system, was too good to pass up. 

Teenagers are frequently accused of being shallow and simple creatures. The problems of the typical adolescent are usually categorised into the clichéd worries over school, family and sex, and are all too often used as oversimplified forms of characterisation in YA. In a genre oversaturated with shallow minded love stories and derivative high school stories, it’s so refreshing to see a book with such intricate character studies of its two main protagonists. This book really is one of the strongest character studies I’ve ever seen in YA. Lio and Craig (and I honestly can’t decide which one I love more) are so intricately put together, so detailed in their personalities, right down to the smallest, seemingly insignificant details that fit together like puzzle pieces. 

Alternating between Craig and Lio’s points of view, Moskowitz manages to handle several very heavy topics – family death, cancer, sexuality, world tragedy – deftly, without slipping into soap opera mode. Everything feels real and brimming with emotion yet never overwrought. As this is a character study – there’s no real plot to speak of – this is where Moskowitz really shines. I dare any reader not to become attached to Craig and Lio. The emotions ever present in the story are raw, often unflinchingly so, and Moskowitz never shies away from the grey areas of the story and thankfully manages to avoid becoming preachy and clichéd. Chris and Lio do solace with each other but it’s not some magical healing love that solves everything for them – it’s just as messed up, awkward, confusing and beautiful as them. I truly appreciated not just the gay love story but the fact that it was interracial – Craig is black and Lio is Jewish – and such markers of identity were merely incidental, not some misguided form of tokenism. Their quirks feel so natural, as does their entire story. To watch their bittersweet and often bumpy relationship unfold is an emotional experience. 

The other part of this book where Moskowitz’s skills flourished was in the book’s atmosphere. It’s a time of fear – the D.C. sniper shootings in post 9/11 America – and the entire story is steeped in this inescapable mood of terror. Craig and Lio’s narrations both capture the dread of living not just in a city but in a world where fear has become so normal that it’s part of everyday life. It’s something one as a reader definitely gets caught up in, along with the entire spectrum of emotions the story is steeped in. 

I thoroughly enjoyed “Gone, Gone, Gone” but there were times where it felt as if the story dragged. It’s a short book but I think it would have worked perfectly as a novella. As it is, it’s still immensely readable but could benefit from more editing. There’s still a year to go so I’m pretty sure there will be more work done to it. I was also a little disappointed by the lack of story time dedicated to the female characters of the story. I really wanted to know more about Adelle, Lio’s therapist, as well as his sisters. Moskowitz has such deft skill for characterisation so it was disappointing to not see some of that dedicated to the women of the story. 

This is a book about what makes you the person you are, and how the smallest, or biggest, of things can change not just you but everything around you. Reading Craig’s and Lio’s stories was truly a fascinating and often highly emotional experience and one I highly recommend you pick up upon its release. There aren’t many books like “Gone, Gone, Gone” in the YA market these days and I definitely think there should be more love for such intricate and complex character studies in a genre, and with an age group, so often misrepresented as shallow and simple. That’s definitely not the case and “Gone, Gone, Gone” is the perfect example of that. I would go out on a limb and say that on the strength of this and her upcoming book "Teeth" (which I have also read an ARC of and will review/fail excitedly over in due course), Moskowitz has established herself as one of the strongest and most underrated voices in modern YA.


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