(Image from Barnes & Noble)
As a pastor's daughter, 15-year-old Samara Taylor is used to being seen as the perfect girl from the perfect family. If only it were true. Her mother's in court-ordered rehab, her father's more interested in his congregation's welfare than in his family's, their house (paid for by the church) is falling down around their ears, and Sam's pretty sure God doesn't exist at all, let alone care about her and her problems. Of course, she can't talk to anyone about any of this, not without breaking her family's fragile image. So, she follows her father's lead, swallowing her fears and saying nothing.
When Jody Shaw—a 13-year-old soloist in the church choir—vanishes from Sam's little town, it shocks everyone. As the days pass without any sign of her, Sam's crisis of faith deepens. How could a loving God allow something so awful to occur? At the same time, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Nick, Jody's 18-year-old brother. People say he's the prime suspect in his sister's disappearance, but Sam doesn't know what to believe anymore. She just wishes time would rewind itself back to the days when everything made sense.
While Sam grapples with all her worries and fears, she must find strength somewhere. Will that search lead her back to the God who comforted her through childhood or down a much more dangerous path?
So, after reading a few Sara Zarr books, I've realized they're kind of hit and miss for me. I adored How to Save a Life, but felt pretty meh about Story of a Girl. My reaction to Once Was Lost (also published as What We Lost) is similar to the latter. It's not that I didn't like the novel, I just didn't love it. Zarr always writes well, using strong prose, complex characters and realistic conflict to tell engaging stories. But, sometimes they click with me, sometimes they don't. My problem with this one mostly boils down to Sam— to me, she comes off as sympathetic, but not all that likable. Her whining and self-absorption get really annoying really fast. Also, the plot of Once Was Lost runs pretty thin, so it's a character-driven novel steered by a heroine I don't really care for, meaning that overall, Once Was Lost just fell kind of flat for me. Ah, well.
(Readalikes: Hm, I can't really think of anything. Can you?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and mature situations
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Once Was Lost from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.