Sara Zarr’s next book, How to Save a Life is now available for pre-order! So excited. To honor the occasion, I thought I’d review my favorite book of hers, Once Was Lost, recommended to me by her agent, who works where I intern.

Speed Read:

Ok so Sam is the pastor’s daughter with an alcoholic father and not a lot of friends. It’s not that she’s shy or doesn’t want friends or is weird or anything, it’s just hard being the pastor’s daughter in a small town. And not even because people are again religion. It’s that everyone her age is so afraid that the pastor of their church will find out if they try a beer or get to second base or drive before they have their license, that they’re kind of afraid of Sam. Then a young girl goes missing, and Sam finds herself struggling not only with her family, but with her faith, her belief in humanity, and the community that surrounds her.

The Deal:

This book is like if 7th Heaven were actually plausible and good, instead of crazy (remember Mary? Drinking, drugged out, sexaholic Mary? And her name is Mary? Yeah). After reading this book, I’m not quite sure why I always bought that everyone wanted to be friends with the Camden kids when they lived in such a small town. Hello? Why would they be so chill with their priest finding them making out in the living room? (Also, who makes out so much in front of their parents?).

Oh man, I digress. My bad.

MY POINT IS that Sara Zarr’s writing is truly original, with a wonderfully present voice and a way of making the you feel that you’re not only reading the story, but a part of it. Sam’s story takes place over the summer, during a heat wave, and there’s something about the way Sara writes that makes the entire book feel like it’s weighted down under 100 degree weather. I kept feeling the need for a tall glass of ice water while I was reading it. Sam’s voice is wonderfully spare, leaving you with the opportunity to really get to know her through her thoughts and actions, instead of a narrator that just tells you how they feel. Her journey is relevant and left unfinished, which I love, since who figures everything out as a teenager anyway? Who figures everything out, ever?

How Far Should You Go:

I tried to come up with some sort of analogy that doesn’t have to do with heat, but since it’s a heat index of 112 outside….yeah. Not much else happening in my brain right now except, PLEASE GOD LET TOMORROW BE COOLER. That said, I would totally recommend going outside and baking if it means you get to read this book. Don’t kill yourself by heatstroke, I mean, god, take a water bottle, but serious discomfort isn’t too much to ask for this one.

The 13/16 Test:

They’re both good. It tackles some hard hitting “who am I” type of stuff, but nothing out of range for any YAers!

The Low Down:

Once Was Lost
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown
Published: October 1, 2009
Classified as: Young Adult