Once Was Lost Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr has a way with realistic stories – she makes them gritty enough to feel firmly based in reality, without turning them into after school specials, despite the issues she addresses. In this story, we’ve got an alcoholic mother, a pastor father who takes better care of his parishioners than his daughter, an abducted teen. Zarr tells her stories clearly, in a way where you aren’t wowed by any specific sentence, but you believe in the characters and their world. This quality also holds true for her reading of the audiobook – she doesn’t make any attempts to do voices or inject extra drama into the story, but speaks clearly and lets her words speak for themselves.

The plot seems to center around the search for the missing girl, and this creates great tension and suspense, but since we hear the story from Sam’s perspective, the story is much more about how this affects her, and how the issues raised by the abduction trigger issues in her own family. Her father’s emotional distance is heightened by his involvement in assisting the family of the missing girl, and there are emotional parallels between her mother’s time in rehab and the how the missing girl’s family deals with the situation.

I was happy to see that Sam’s faith is dealt with realistically and not dismissively. She truly struggles with her faith and doubts, and there are no easy answers – not something you see everyday in a YA novel. Highly recommended to any teen looking for a solid, realistic novel.

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