If You’re Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser
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“We would always be friends. Because some love can’t dissolve, or fall apart, or get complicated. Some love just is.”
Friends, this was such a beautiful book that touched and captivated me! I don’t read a lot of contemporary but this story and mystery sounded so interesting to me that I requested it months ago on Edelweiss. And I am so happy I was approved for a review copy and have the opportunity to scream about this book with you all! You should read this book!
I never re-read the synopsis once I decide to add a book to my TBR, I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked this up but I was drawn to it when trying to decide which review copy to read next. But this book blew me away and sucked in me from the author’s note thanking me for reading the galley.
FROM AUTHOR’S NOTE: What would it take for someone to believe they’d been ghosted by one of life’s tried and true friends? Because there are people in my life who, if they ever stopped talking to me, I would have to assume were trapped under a boulder. I honestly got obsessed with this thought. What would it take to give up on that person like that – a-trapped-under-a-boulder person?
Once I read this I too became consumed with this because social media is so ubiquitous and in my experience has enabled friendships to – for lack of a better word – last beyond their time. People kind of come and go and growing apart from friends is a part of growing up, but when you feel constantly connected to a person on IG and FB does that change?
Zan is the main character in If You’re Out There and the book opens with her unanswered emails to best friend Priya, who recently had moved to California from Chicago and stopped all communications. July, August, and multiple click-bait emails roll by with no response, and when September 4 comes around with the start of school our story really begins.
The characters are all so vivid and relatable, and I absolutely adored their witty banter with one another. I loved how supported and loved Zan is even though she has been isolating herself since Priya moved; how they encourage her to come out of her shell but are careful to not push her too hard. As a person that personally has suffered silently from depression for most of my life, this meant so much to me as a reader. It definitely shows how you can be there for a loved one suffering from depression (whether it be situational like with Zan or chronic), and I really hope more books depict this to help normalize mental illness and break the stigma that one must suffer alone.
“My senses have become duller lately. Like it’s not quite me who’s doing the seeing, the smelling, the tasting.”
Logan’s introduction to the story breathed life into the book and Zan’s life. The beginning of the book she was definitely wallowing a bit in her depression and trying to process the loss of her best friend, especially without any word. As a reader you really feel for her and her confusion, having all communication completely end right after she moves away. Yet she’s active and happy… and not quite herself on Instagram. How do you accept being ghosted by your best friend without a word, especially when they don’t seem like themselves?
‘People never tell you.’
‘What?’ Her eyes grow glossy, but she smiles.
‘How much it hurts to lose a friend.’
Honestly this mystery is plotted so incredibly well and despite my being a very close reader 🕵️ I found myself constantly gasping when tidbits were revealed! As Zan and Logan go deeper and deeper, things get weirder. I like that even though everyone thinks she is just seeing a “person-trapped-under-a-boulder” as a way to try and make sense of being left behind, no one makes her feel stupid, and Logan even goes along with it. Their friends-to-romance arc is so precious and me, a girl that rarely swoons, have a couple of ‘KISS HIM!!!!’ notes on my Kindle. 💖
I did find the narrative style a little difficult to follow at first until I settled into the story; the story kind of bounces around between past and present and doesn’t show every single detail of Zan’s day. These jumps are notated in the eARC with just a double-spaced paragraph break, but I quickly overcame the jarring feelings. The main reason that this was a 4-star read was because I don’t understand how we suddenly have journals that provide exposition in the last third of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the addition exposition and watching the pieces kind of slide into place, but I found it a little out of place and I am not sure where the reader gets them from because the rest of the story is told in the first person perspective of Zan.
This is such an important story about friendships fading and how social media can make that harder, but it is also about love and never giving up on people. I went from being on pins and needles (I honestly stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish this book *yawn*) to laughing out loud; Loutzenhiser does a great job of cutting the tension with the character’s dialog and sarcastic humor. Also I just need to say that Logan’s little sister Bee is an icon.
‘That’s a good name, is she a princess?’
‘No,’ she says, somewhat scandalized. ‘She’s a senator.’
The book is strong and feminist. I loved how Zan was a strong female character that isn’t made up of rough edges and it handles how one processes loss and how one might process being ghosted by the one person you are sure would never. I honestly cannot recommend this book enough! If I were going to straight up classify this I would say it is more contemporary than a mystery as it is as much about growing up, trying to figure out your place in the world, processing loss, and handling first likes as it is about uncovering a mystery.
REPRESENTATION: lgbtqiap+ (f/f relationship, sexuality being explained as being on a spectrum), Indian characters (not-OV), situational depression
OWN VOICES REVIEWS: if you are a teen that reviewed this book, please let me know!
CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: abandonment, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a parent, misogyny (challenged), drug abuse referenced
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for review. All opinions are my own. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication. If You’re Out There publishes on March 5, 2019!
You can find information about my rating criteria here.
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.
It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.
Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:
Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.
Maybe she can’t.