“Nearly Gone” by Elle Cosimano is a gripping mystery featuring Nearly, a girl who lives with her mother in a trailer park. Her father abandoned the family and Nearly has been waiting for him to return or contact her ever since.
Nearly’s friends are important elements in the story. Her best friend Jeremy lives in the wealthy part of town. Although his parents don’t like Nearly, he is steadfast in keeping their friendship. Now, though, he wants more than friendship, and Nearly doesn’t reciprocate his feelings.
Nearly’s other good friend is Anh, a girl whose Indian parents own the local minimart. Anh’s older brother has given up continuing his education in the hopes that Anh will win a scholarship and attend college. Anh is Nearly’s competition for the school’s generous chemistry scholarship.
Ever since Nearly’s dad left, she “borrows” money from her mother’s tip jar to buy a Friday paper and scour the personal section of the classified part of the newspaper, called “Missed Connections.” It’s something she used to do with her dad, and she’s sure that sometime he will contact her.
When she finds an unusual ad and it seems to her to be connected to an attack on a student, Nearly takes note. When it happens a second time, she goes to the police, but she leaves when they don’t believe her notion that the ads are related to the attacks. How does she know they don’t believe her? She has an ability to know what people are feeling when she touches them.
The novel is difficult to put down. The action builds, the characters develop beautifully and there are many possible suspects who could be the killer. The want ads and the numbers on the arms of the victims all are a puzzle that Nearly must solve before the next death. But she's too late for almost all the murders.
While the story is really enthralling, it does suffer from the “I can’t believe she would do that” problem. Here is a very intelligent teenager (a math and science star) who knows she is being stalked by a killer, yet she visits a cemetery hours after the funeral, when she’ll be all alone. She puts herself in dangerous situations over and over again -- even when she knows that she is a target and there is someone who has killed several people to get at her.
And while the romance angle is fairly unbelievable, most readers will be having such a good time that they will be willing to suspend any doubts or disbelief in order to find out how the story ends. This reviewer stayed up way too late for that very reason.
Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by Kathy Dawson Books for review purposes.
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