Once was Lost by Sara Zarr
Published: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
(217 pages, hardcover)
Summary: Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.
In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed--about God, about your family, about yourself--is transformed.
My thoughts: I'm usually not one for Christian realistic fiction that isn't totally romance-related. I tend to get bored with it. But Once was Lost was a well-written, honest novel that definitely explores teens' faiths and their doubts. I liked that Zarr didn't shy away from the fact that Sam is definitely having doubts, and how she even mentioned not believing at all. The novel was a refreshing look on Christianity and on controversies that affect more than just the closest related. Sam was a nice character, and while I was a little turned off by how meek she was and how often she kept quiet when she could've spoken up, she was still realistic. Overall, Once was Lost is a deep, if a bit preachy at times, novel perfect for young adults.
The story line was a tiny bit predictable, and if anything, the (spoiler here) happy ending seemed a little bit too perfect and forced (end of spoiler). I liked the concept and I enjoyed the character's growth, but it still seemed preachy at times. Also, it seemed a little rushed at the end. Maybe it was just how happy everyone suddenly was. That being said, the first half of the novel, while kind of slow, was also deep and well executed.
The writing was gorgeous. It wasn't breathtaking, but it was simple and metaphorical in surprising ways. I really loved the way Zarr wrote and I'll probably be picking up other novels of hers just for another taste of it. Sam was a realistic character and I really felt her voice. I didn't always agree with her, and ocassionally I wanted to scream at her for being so quiet. But other than that, I really liked her as a character. The other characters weren't really touched on much, but I liked them nonetheless. I especially liked how the romance was dealt with: it wasn't overbearing, but it was still sweet. I really liked that Zarr didn't make it end just because the boy was going off to college; that sometimes annoys me, since all relationships don't completely end after college. In the end, the story was well-done and the characters were believable, if vague.
Sorry for being all over the place in this review. I'll just wrap it up by saying that this is a good, deep, short read that while it had its flaws, was enjoyable and was great at face-value. Go read it if you're into Christian fiction, or just looking for a meaningful, quick read.
Covering the Cover: I love this cover; it's simple and gorgeous. And it makes the title look more meaningful.
Characters: 3 stars
Plot: 4 stars
Writing: 4 starsOverall Rating: 3.9 stars