Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mixed Review: Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost
by Sara Zarr

The Short Story
Sam is the preacher's daughter in her tiny town, and on the outside she has the model family. Except her dad is actually never around. And her mom is an alcoholic and (not so) secretly in rehab. And Sam doesn't know that she actually believes in anything anymore. When a local girl is kidnapped, Sam is forced to confront things she'd been hoping to ignore.
A good book that I couldn't quite relate to.

Come for the....
plot. When I think of why I love Sara Zarr's books, it's honestly because of her characters. I love being in their heads, hearing their thoughts and fears. Once Was Lost was different for me. It's the first time I've read a Zarr book and not been able to find myself in the character. But I still enjoyed the book. I knew going into it that it had been inspired by several things, including the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. And it was very easy to get wrapped up in the kidnapping plot line, and the whole mystery surrounding it. I was positive about two separate characters being the kidnapper, and then was totally wrong. And of course did not suspect who it actually was.

Of course, the kidnapping story unfolds all while Sam is trying to deal with feeling abandoned by her parents and her faith. I could see how frustrating it would be for her pastor dad to have all the right things to say about everyone else's problems, and nothing to say about his own. Or the pressure to keep up appearances with her alcoholic mom. So I waied for Sam to explode all her frustration and confusion on someone. And waited. And waited.  That aside, I thought it was cool to have a non-preachy take on spirituality. And the writing is just as good as all of Zarr's other books.

Don't Think About This Too Hard

  • I would have liked to see a little more character growth from Sam. By the end of the book I felt like her situation was different not because of her, but because of other people's decisions. It was frustrating that a lot of things seemed to happen to her, instead of her taking a more active role.

The Big Three:
Language: one or two bad words
Sex and Stuff: not an issue
Violence: a kidnapping

There are some really interesting clips of Sara Zarr from the launch party for Once Was Lost that I watched on Natasha's blog, if you're interested.


  1. I had the same issues with Sam even though I liked the book as well. I would have loved to see her break out of her placid shell a little and really express what she was feeling rather than just hide it away. Still, I am looking forward to reading other books by Zarr.

    1. I know, right? Especially the stuff with the youth group lady.
      I'm pretty sure Sweethearts will always be my favorite book of Sara Zarr's, no matter what else she writes. But it's because I could really really relate to the main girl in that, and I thought the ending was perfect. How to Save A Life is good, too.

  2. I pretty much felt the same way. Good but not great. I did really like how Zarr dealt with the religious stuff--not pushy.

    1. I liked that, too. I usually stay far far away from books with religion in them, either because it makes the religious people look dumb, or because it feels very agenda-y. I liked how Sam's whole crisis of faith of resolved.

  3. I'm with you and Lan, I wanted Sam to freak out at her dad and speak up but I could relate because I often just keep my mouth shut when I want to say something so I get it.

    1. That's a good point. I think I'm just confrontational in real life, so I can't understand why other people aren't, too. :)