DO NOT LET THE COVER OF THIS BOOK SCARE YOU OFF. IT DOES NOT, IN ANY WAY, MIRROR THE TONE OR THE STORYLINE. YES, IT DEALS WITH HEAVY ISSUES, INCLUDING CANCER, 9/11, LOSS, FEAR, AND GRIEF, BUT AT ITS HEART, GONE, GONE, GONE IS A SWEET LITTLE HE-SAID/HE-SAID LOVE STORY.
Seriously, before I read the flap copy, I assumed from the cover art that this was a super-dark book about, I dunno, a kidnapping. It's not*.
Craig: I think my glory days are behind me. I am fifteen years old, and all I have is the vague hope that, someday, someone somewhere will once again care about my penis and whether it is big or small.
Lio: I'm not an enigma. I'm just talked out, probably permanently. I said all I needed to say when I was a boy made of sticks and radiation and half-digested oatmeal. I don't feel good. I want to go home. Make it stop. It's been seven years, and I'm still out of words.
Yeah. So even though Gone, Gone, Gone deals with some heavy stuff—Lio survived childhood leukemia, while his twin brother did not; Craig hasn't been able to bond with another human being since his sort-of-ex-boyfriend left; it takes place in the DC area during the Beltway sniper attacks—it doesn't read heavy. Part of that is due to Craig and Lio's voices: while they're both wrestling with heartache (both romantic and not), they're also both hopeful, even if they don't realize it. I base that claim on the fact that they're both so concerned with the future, and whether or not they'll be experiencing it together or separately. (<--Does that make sense to you? I know what I'm trying to say, but sometimes I need a Leila-translator.)
If you want to place it on the YA Cancer Book Spectrum, I'd say that in terms of tone, storyline, and voice, it would land almost perfectly midway between The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. A great example of that is Lio's take on cancer:
Cancer is just a way to be sick in real life, but in movies and stuff it's shorthand for he was young and beautiful and pure and then he got sick and he suffered and he had poignant last words and he died. And I can tell myself that's what happened with Theodore, though it's not entirely accurate. His last word was "water" and he died before he could drink it. You can make that beautiful, if you want. But the reality is, he was a thirsty forty-pound boy, and he died whining.
Having lived through it, he's clearly grossed out by the misty-watercolor-Lurlene-McDaniel version of cancer—he is very into statistics as truth—but at the same time, he's able to step back from his own view and see why people are drawn to the other. He doesn't want to see (or claim) his own experience as any more or less than what it has been, but because of that, he isn't always completely honest with himself about the depth of his feelings.
Man, this is a difficult one to write about. There's just a whole lot there, and I feel that I'm not doing it justice. It deals with 9/11 from the perspective of a New Yorker and from the perspective of a DC resident. It's a love story about two boys, but their sexuality is never an Issue: they are who they are, they're fine with that, and so are other people. It's a story about family, about losing your first love and finding your second. It's funny and sad and sweet. Craig and Lio are hilarious and tragic and insensitive and hypersensitive and self-deprecating and profane and realistically politically incorrect and loving and angry and happy and sad and adorable and real.
As I've completely given up on being at all intelligible, I'll finish this off with this somewhat random passage. It's Lio thinking about meeting Craig for the first time, and it makes me smile every time I read it:
But then I saw him. His hair might not be golden-blond—he's black, so that would be a little weird—but his eyes kind of are. That zip-up red hoodie he wears makes him look like he just got back from apple picking. And God I need to shut up because I might be growing a vagina.
*And I GET why the shoes are there, and how they work as a symbol. But it only works AFTER you've read the book, which is not really the point of cover art.
Book source: ILLed through my library. This book was read for the 2012 Cybils season.