Monday, March 25, 2019

REVIEW: If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser

If You're Out There
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.

Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:

Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.

Maybe she can’t. 

Admittedly, the cover was the first thing that drew me into this book, but this book also seemed to focus on a normal topic that we hardly see in YA novels. This novel shows us a character whose best friend has moved and is not responding to her emails, something many readers likely have experienced. Yet, it combines the sadness of missing a friend and the ordinary life with the mystery of a friend simply wanting answers.

Zan and Priya have been best friends for years, never without each other. When Priya moves to California over the summer, they have a tearful goodbye, promising to keep in touch, but they don't. Zan sends emails and phone calls, but she receives no answer. Zan suspects that something else is going on, that Priya would not just stop talking to her, but everyone around her just tells her that she needs to move on and make some new friends. This is just what happens when friends move away. Everyone, except Logan, the new kid at school. He listens to Zan and decides to help her found out why Priya isn't talking and whether there is something else going on.

The combination of genres in this novel was very interesting and worked fairly well for the most part. While the book combines contemporary with mystery, the book has a strong contemporary feeling for a majority of the book. The main focus is on Zan as she struggles with her loneliness now that her other half has moved away, but the contemporary feeling of this book goes further.
Part of this is just by placing her in ordinary surroundings. Zan still has to go to work and go to school. She also has her mother's girlfriend moving into the house, her brother to look after, and occasionally going over to her dad's. All of these things weren't things Zan was struggling with but they were parts of her life that had become normal. I really liked seeing her interact with others in these settings. These places and relationships made me understand her character more than her lost friendship or the mystery plot.

Again, the plot of Zan missing her friend is a major part of this book. She goes through many emotions as she deals with this and the fact that Priya seems to have abandoned her. But there is a true show of friendship in this book because Zan does not want to give up on Priya. When her family or others tell her that this is just how things are, that friendships end and she needs to move on with her life, she keeps going. Zan knows Priya better than anyone and knows that Priya would not just distance herself, and from Priya's social media, Zan can tell that Priya is not acting like herself. As a reader, we see from Zan's viewpoint and are told that we have to believe Zan when she says that Priya might need help. From an outside perspective, this is crazy, but we see how much Zan believes this, so we go along. One of the things that does cause disbelief from the reader's standpoint is this: we never get to meet Priya before she moved away. We only have what Zan remembers about Priya to understand their friendship.

This goes into the mystery aspect of the book. Zan starts to suspect that something bad has happened to Priya and starts sleuthing with her new friend/love interest Logan. This mystery plays into that fantasy that when our friends stop talking to us, maybe they can't talk to us. This book turns this fantasy into reality. I thought it was interesting how the mystery tied into the contemporary storyline and I thought it was a great way to explore the narrative because this was a mystery that Zan would want to solve that most people don't get the opportunity to try to solve. I had issues with the mystery later on in the book. Seeing the characters discover the mysteries, that was great, but once the mystery was solved it felt like it went too quickly and I am still not quite sure what exactly happened. I'm not really satisfied with where the mystery went.

Overall, I did like this book. I read through it fairly quickly and thought that the author did a great job using this topic. I preferred the contemporary aspects of this book to the mystery but mainly because I was not satisfied with where the mystery went and it wasn't really clear what happened. I do think this would be a great book to read and I will keep my eyes open for the author's sophomore novel.

I hereby give this book
3.5 Stars
Meaning: I liked it, but it wasn't quite amazing.

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