GoneNovember 26, 2007
Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson
pub. Roaring Brook Press, 176 pp
Sometimes when I hear the basic premise of a book, I am immediately hooked and can’t wait to read it. This was just the case with Gone. Now the subject of student/teacher relationships is not new, and is even quite current with a recent spate of national cases and a series of AP newspaper articles. However, this book promised to look at the issue from a slightly different point of view.
First off, the main character is a teenage boy, 17 years old and two weeks shy of his 18th birthday. He has just graduated from high school and finds himself getting involved over the summer with his 31 year old social studies teacher from last year. The relationship is mutual, and by that I mean that there is no manipulation or abuse of power by either as they come together, and is further removed from typical expectations because they are no longer teacher and student.
I know some people will say that any relationship between a 31 year old and a 17 year old will involve manipulation, and I’m not saying that their relationship is either a good thing, or a healthy thing, but I at least think that, in this case, it develops out of mutual desire, as misguided or incorrect as those desires may be.
I hoped that this set up would allow for an honest look at what attracts people to each other, the frailties and mistakes that we, both as teens and adults, are prone to make, and the consequences of those actions. Unfortunately, I feel like Ms. Johnson took the easy way out and ultimately takes all responsibility away from her characters and instead puts the blame on background and addiction.
To me, this would have been a much more interesting and meaningful book, if the characters weren’t fulfilling the stereotypical addict/child-of-addict enabler/enabled rolls. If they had been simply lost souls looking for, finding, and dealing with what passes between them, their stories would have been much more honest and real.
Added to this, I also found the characters one dimensional, and the writing somewhat flat, so I was not supremely impressed with this book. That said, it certainly was not a waste of time. In fact, it was a book that stayed with me for a little while, and it took me some time to figure out what, exactly, I thought about what had happened. I knew immediately that I really disliked the ending and thought it a complete cop out, but the rest of the book did hold my attention, somewhat, and for that I cannot completely pan it.