The Gone Away Place

by Christopher Barzak

Barzak has a way with grief and young adult emotions that seems to use simple words in simple phrases but somehow deftly uncovers complicated things.

In The Gone Away Place, in the pretend city of Newfoundland, he creates a character, Ellie Frame, who loses everything in one fateful afternoon as tornadoes descend upon the town she loves. All of her friends–including her boyfriend– die. She is left alive.

And this is the tale of the aftermath. How Ellie lives with her grief (brokenly) and how her parents, so often missing or abusive in YA books, keep caring about her and doing their best to support her. And the magical realism part is that Ellie finds there is a way to communicate with her lost ones.

What Barzak has created here, through Ellie’s POV, and the first-person stories of her friends, is a primer in both grief and zeroing in on the moments in relationships that are truly important to us. it is a lesson in acknowledging the importance of our connectedness, as well as the bitter truth of some who are not connected. This is a deeply moving, slow paced, tidal story with deceptively transparent prose.

But don’t read it looking for YA romance or trendy phrases. At times the voices resemble each other a lot, and no one, not even the “bad guy” of the book is truly beyond redemption in a way that resembles reality, Barzak’s teens are all good people deep inside. Read it as a meditation on the importance of people in your own life, the importance of remembering to remember them.

(another grieving book that carry the actual weight of day to day grief that it reminded me of was Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Summer Bird Blue)