Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Kara, Lost by Susan Niz

Kara, Lost by Susan Niz is the story of 16 year old Kara, who feels that things are so bad at home she is left with no choice but to run away. Leaving in the middle of February, she heads to her sister's house, hoping that her sister, who left home a while ago will give her a place to stay. After Ian, her sister's roommate, refuses to allow Kara to stay more than a night (harboring a runaway is illegal) Kara is fairly bitter and knows, from this one encounter that Ian is just as manipulative and controlling as their father.

Kara starts to realize that perhaps she was a bit impulsive in walking out of her parent's house, and that she is going to be in serious trouble if she can't find a place to stay. She spends one night in a mall, one night in a squat with a strange and creepy guy from McDonalds (who is very possibly high) before going home with one of the counselors from a day clinic that helps troubled teens on their own. It provides means, therapy and a safe place to spend the day, but does not offer anywhere to sleep. Gwen takes Kara home, even though it is very against the rules and because Gwen has sad eyes and seems proud of her boyfriend, Kara just knows that she is still a wounded child on the inside, not quite over her childhood trauma and therefore feels that it is her mission to protect all other kids.

Kara spends the entire book making these strange assumptions, using these grandiose jumps in logic. She just knows that Ian is really her sister's boyfriend, even though they claim to be only roommates and that he is insanely controlling of her sister. But she decides this after having met him once. And I don't blame him for not wanting her to stay. It's illegal for her to stay there. It's not hard for me to believe someone would be uncomfortable with this. She made similar assumptions about Gwen, the therapist, and later on in the novel as well.

This isn't the only flaw I felt the book had. Kara was never a believable character. The book felt as if it were told in a clinical rather than emotional manner, and I'm sorry, but if you want me to be really draw into your book about a 16 year old runaway, I need to care about your main character. I need to believe that running away was the only option she had left. But I never got that. We hear — my mom is distant and my dad is incredibly controlling and they want to force me to take an anti-depressant. We hear a lot of, I know how bad home is, I've heard how awful your home life was, but nothing is ever shown, nothing is ever expounded upon. And this is true of pretty much every character and every interaction. Some characters have a complete and total personality shift, but no one ever bothers to explain how or why it happened and I find myself unable to actually believe it.

To me, the whole story felt as if it were told with a high level of detachment. It felt as if the narrator of the story was disinterested in details and the story, which of course means that I, as a reader am more detached and therefore disinterested in the story. Even the parts of the book that should have had my pulse pounding, my breathing speeding up, my heart racing, even they left me flat and a little bored.

I will say that my favorite scene in the entire book is when Kara is sitting in McDonalds and an undercover cop shows up trying to track down the same kid she is looking for (but, umm... obviously for different reasons). The way that she detaches herself from him is brilliant and seriously made my day.

Kara, Lost isn't really a bad book. The story has potential and maybe if it had been a little tighter, a little smoother, I would have liked it more. As it is, I felt that Kara was childish, selfish, naive, impulsive and none too bright. She also has an incredible level of self-superiority and there were times when it really rubbed me the wrong way. She looked down on certain characters that had given her absolutely no reason to assume superiority. What I think might have been part of the problem is an attempt by the author to foreshadow what was going to be happening later — like Kara knowing Ian is so terrible after one encounter. Then, when Ian does start to display some more controlling tendencies, we are going to just think, Oh! Well, she was right, so I can ignore the leap of logic... It just didn't work for me.

I feel bad that most of what I've had to say is negative, because Kara, Lost really isn't a bad book. But it isn't really one I'd consider good, either. It's just kind of... there. I do know that the author, Susan Niz, went through some of the same things as Kara, having been a teen runaway herself and I feel like there really might be a great story tied up in there. I just don't really feel like this was it. But, feel free to read it for yourself and be the judge. It's possible that someone else out there will simply love it.

*Disclaimer — I received a copy of this for review in exchange for a fair and honest review.