Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

I have mentioned Sara Zarr several times before – I was a huge fan of Story of a Girl, I liked her thoughts on Acedia and Me, and she was a contributor to Jesus Girls. Just to mention a few. I asked for her new book for Christmas, and I was excited to read it, but words can’t express how happy it made me to open the front cover and see my favorite lyrics from one of my favorite Over the Rhine songs, “Long Lost Brother.” That’s a song that never comes off my iPod. (Mike is not the Over the Rhine fan that I am, but even he concedes that this might be their best song.) I took a picture so you could enjoy it as much as I did.

Once Was Lost is the story of Sam, a pastor’s daughter going through a crisis of faith. Her mother is in rehab after a DUI, her father is emotionally available to everyone except her, and a girl she knows at church has recently been kidnapped. What does it mean to lose faith in God, and what does it mean to lose faith in people? Sam feels she is drifting away from everything she has ever known as she asks these questions, and the big questions of the book are both, “Will the missing girl be found?” and, “Will Sam find anything to hold on to?”

If, as Nancy Pearl said, the four ways into a book are character, plot/story, setting, and language, I am definitely a character sort of person. And I love the way that Sara Zarr writes characters. Sam and her friends and family are real, fallible people with very real problems, but the story isn’t a classic YA problem novel. It’s just an exploration of the ways that people in a faith community can care for and hurt one another, and how one might survive that in an authentic way.

I don’t do stars for ratings, because it’s too complicated. I might think a book is good but not like it, or I might like it even if it’s not good. In this case, I can say without reservation that I both liked this book and think that it is worth recommending. The plot is tight, the tension stays high, and the characters are, as I said, well-written and believable. I tend to prefer realistic YA to fantasy, and if you do, too, this is definitely a book worth checking out. It’s awfully early to say this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this end up on my “favorites” list at the end of this year.

Tomorrow we will have a guest post by Lauren Kate, author of Fallen. And Wednesday or Thursday I’ll post the winners of the CD contest!

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4 Comments

  1. I thought this book did a really good job portraying the emotions and life of a pastor’s daughter. I recognized a lot of the feelings that I grew up with and this book, out of all of Sara’s, really spoke to me the most.

    Posted 1/11/2010 at | Permalink
  2. LOVED this book – I ranked it as my #1 fave YA of 2009. 🙂

    Thanks for your review. I’m glad to discover your site!

    Posted 1/11/2010 at | Permalink
  3. I’m just gonna give a highfive for the OtR love, especially “Long Lost Brother”. 🙂

    Posted 1/11/2010 at | Permalink
  4. This book sounds awesome! Can’t wait to see tomorrow’s guest post!

    Posted 1/11/2010 at | Permalink

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