Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Losing Gabriel by Lurlene McDaniel | Rating: ★★★☆☆

It is no secret that I have been a fan of Lurlene McDaniel's work for over a decade. I am proud to say that I've read nearly all of her printed works from her career, which has spanned for multiple decades,  and to say I was excited for Losing Gabriel would be an injustice to the emotions I feel when McDaniel publishes new work. At all defining moments of my life, there have been a few authors whom I adore as much as I do her. Even in her weakest points, even when the stories feel lackluster or familiar, her words are home. Something deeply tangled into her stories helped shape who I became. 

I should clarify, right here and now, that while her stories opened many doors for me and sparked one of many interests, I am no longer in her targeted audience. Obviously. But the thing is, despite this, I was moved multiple times by Losing Gabriel. From start to finish, the story stirs something inside the readers and does so in the way that only Lurlene McDaniel can. I know what to expect when reading a novel by her: you need tissues and to prepare for the tears which surely will come. 

This one is no exception. 

If you don't have tears in your eyes by its final pages, I don't know what to say to you. 


Back to basics. Lurlene. Oh, Lurlene. She presents to us a breathtaking story of love, loss and the rise/fall of the steps we take from teenagers to adults. As always, she is a master at capturing all of these things: what love means, the grief we feel when life crumbles us, everyday emotions and then a heavy dose of the unexpected. Losing Gabriel is one of my least favorite releases from McDaniel, but it's still brilliantly moving. Devastating and beautiful. All things that a good, emotional, old fashioned Lurlene McDaniel novel should be. 

One of the things that strikes me about Lurlene's writing, and how it adapts to present times, is that she really does get it. Her words--whether from her main characters and their actions or to a bit of an understanding of medical terms--are always on point and flow pleasantly. She does her research in a way that other authors lack. There were moments in Losing Gabriel where I thought, you know what, teens don't really talk like that. Some bits of the dialogue were off or even familiar, in a way that made me wonder if perhaps I just am so into with her writing that everything feels familiar. But for a huge chunk of her work, she just knows. And you know she does. 

But there are bad moments in a heavy abundance. 

Indeed, I found myself pretty cringed out on multiple occasions and found the three main characters to be predictable, the loss they suffer no unique in comparison to her other works. I also thought that the split narration was choppy and hard to follow, even if it was short and relatively to the point something about it didn't keep my attention for prolonged periods of time. Everything was exactly as I thought it'd be and part of me had wished that the title, for example, wasn't so glaringly obvious. I think readers know now to expect death in these sort of books but the title is such a huge nod to what is in the pages that I think it'll turn readers off. 

I do think that fans of McDaniel will be less critical and of course, teen readers will flock to this piece and cry with Sloan, Dawson and Lani. Because of their relatable qualities and the story spanning over four years of their lives, it's easy to grow attached to them. When they feel something, you feel it. And that's the beauty of Lurlene's novels--they make you feel things and while they aren't always cheerful additions, it makes for good reading. 

At the end of the day, we read to feel or to escape or some variation of the two, and (duh!) Lurlene McDaniel is a go-to modern classic author. Do the flaws take away from Losing Gabriel? Absolutely not. It's still an experience to read, it's still as beautifully written and fun as it is heart crushingly sad. Maybe it isn't Lurlene McDaniel at her finest but it is still solid. Losing Gabriel takes all of what we know and love about McDaniel's incredibly large catalogue and brings us into a new story of love, loss, family and growing up. Pieces of this story are reminiscent of past publications and will leave you feeling sad, hopeful and a little nostalgic. 

(Picking up this copy was like picking up the new Harry Potter novel/script. I felt young, young, young again. Nostalgic. It reminded me of the days in high school spent listening to music during lunch, distracting myself, so I could skip the meal and use my lunch money at the end of the week to buy a new book. Often, those purchases were directed to Lurlene and Cecily von Ziegesar, Kate Brian, Lois Duncan, so on and so forth.) 

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