Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

"Proof by contradiction! An indirect proof by which a proposition is proved true by proving it is impossible to be false." 
Nearly Gone is an exciting novel with an original story line involving a serial murderer and the efforts of a high school student with special abilities to solve the mystery of the murders.

Nearly Boswell has the unusual ability to "taste" other people's emotions when she touches them. She believes that emotion is an energy which travels between her and the person she touches.  "Maybe I was like a channel, someone other people's energies could pass through. I was somehow experiencing truths about people that others just couldn't."  Most people's emotions taste sour. As a result of this Nearly doesn't date, do sports or attend parties. She studiously avoids physical contact with others, including her own mother.

Nearly lives in Sunny View Mobile Home Village with her mother, Mona, who works as an exotic dancer at Gentleman Jim's. Their lives fell apart five years ago when her father simply left them one day and never returned. His wallet and gold wedding band were found in his car, abandoned at the airport. Many of the students at her high school live in Sunny View.

Nearly who sometimes goes by the more regular name of Leigh, is obsessed with finding her father. Nearly and her friend Jeremy Fowler used to scan the personal ads while their dad's played poker together at Belle Green. About a year after he vanished, Nearly found an ad that she believes was placed by her father. "N -- I'm here and I'm okay. I'll always be near you. I love you. D. Now she scours the personal ads in Missed Connections for any leads on her father. But she also checks the ads because sometimes she finds ones that express the loneliness she often feels.

Nearly who was so named because she was born premature and "nearly" didn't survive, is a math whiz who is competing against two other students, her girlfriend and chem lab partner Anh Bui and ex-varsity football player TJ Wiles for the $25,000 chemistry scholarship at West River High. Community service is a mandatory requirement for the chemistry scholarship and because Nearly has no car or bus money to volunteer in labs or the Smithsonian, she has to tutor students five days a week. One of her students is Emily Reinnert, a cheerleader. 

The morning that Mr. Rankin presents the Schrodinger thought experiment, Nearly notices an unusual ad in the Missed Connections. It reads "Newton was wrong. We clash with yellow. Find me tonight under the bleachers." This ad does not seem to fit in with the others in Missed Connections. That night Nearly also finds a dead cat placed in a box labelled "FOR NEARLY" under her porch stoop.This combined with the block letters on her chem desk at school that read DEAD OR ALIVE make Nearly scared.

The next day at school Nearly learns that a student she was tutoring, Emily Reinnert was assaulted and left naked under the bleachers in the gym. She had the number 10 painted on her arm. Nearly thinks back to the ad and realizes that it referred to what was going to happen to Emily who was painted yellow on one side and blue on the other - the opposing colours on Isaac Newton's colour wheel. Nearly was tutoring Emily as part of her volunteer hours. Emily is replaced by Marcia Steckler who is involved in the school play, Hamlet which will open this weekend.

The following Friday Nearly notices a second unusual ad that reads "Archimedes knew the play wasn't really the thing. Do the math and find me after the show." Nearly thinks back to her conversation with Marcia about her being in the school play and is certain she knows who the next victim will be. Nearly makes the decision to go to the police. She meets with Lieutenant Nicholson and tells him about the Missed Connections ads but finds that Nicholson suspects her of being involved. When she returns to the police station to retrieve her forgotten ID Nearly overhears Nicholson telling a woman that they need someone inside West River High to find out all they can about Nearly. That person turns out to be a boy named Whelan who was sprung from juvie earlier to help them bust Lonny Johnston.

At the school auditorium that night Nearly waits hidden to see what will happen but when nothing does she goes to her classroom only to find a note carved into her desk that states "You lost the gold crown. Better luck next time.' She realizes that Archimedes Principle tells about how the scientist determined the weight of a gold crown by measuring the volume of water it displaced. Nearly connects this to Hamlet by realizing that there is a floating body in the play - that of Ophelia. This leads her to discover Marcie's body floating in the school pool. She has the number ten written in permanent marker on her arm.

While the police are searching the school for the missing girl, Nearly escapes out the front door and is seen by Lonny Johnston's friend, a boy with a motorcycle.  The next day, Jeremy tells Nearly that Marcia was found in the pool and that like Emily she was drugged before she drowned.

At school, Mr. Rankin assigns Nearly a new student to tutor and that turns out to be the motorcycle boy, Reece Whelan, Lonny Johnston's friend. When Nearly balks, Reece gives her his phone number and persistently pursues her until she agrees to tutor him. Reece picks Nearly up on his motorcycle and they head over to a diner to have dinner together and study. Reece reveals to Nearly that he was kicked out of his old school, North Hampton and that he was busted on a drug raid.

Later that week Nearly comes to Reece's rescue in what appears to be a drug deal gone bad, when she sees him being beaten up by Oleska Petrenko, a Ukrainian student at her school who hangs out with Lonny. Reece claims Nearly is his girlfriend, but Lonny doesn't believe him.

That Friday another ad appears in Missed Connection. "We all fall down. The tower will point the way. It's 68 ft. higher than three times a side of its square base. If the sum of these two is 1,380, at day's end you'll know where to find me." Nearly sees the ad while on a trip to Kings Dominion. On the trip Jeremy reveals that the online searches he has done on Nearly's father, David Boswell, reveal he was a high stakes professional gambler who won a huge amount of money. At the end of the day, as they are leaving the park, Posie Washington, Nearly's Wednesday tutoring student, is found to be missing. Using the ad, Nearly discovers Posie in the park washroom with the number three on her arm. Still alive, Posie is rushed to hospital.

With all three victims connected to Nearly she realizes that she has to find the connection and the killer before there are more murders. As the messages continue, Nearly struggles to understand who among her friends might be the culprit and why them might be doing this. Not only that but she is struggling to unravel the mystery of her father, who he was and why he abandoned her and her mother. Complicating matters is her growing affection for bad boy Reece Whelan who doesn't seem to be who he says. Little does Nearly realize how all three mysteries are interconnected.


Elle Cosimano has written a very different murder mystery that has a major plot line involving the murders of Nearly's classmates, with two subplots, the mystery of Nearly's father and the mystery of Reece Whelan. This intriguing novel will keep readers guessing until the very end as there are plenty of plot twists. While the resolution of the murders is not quite so believable the author nevertheless ties up all the loose ends.

The strength of this novel is in the development of the murder mystery which seems highly original and too sophisticated for a teen serial killer. The cleverly worded ads keep the reader engaged as Nearly tries to solve where the next murder will happen and prevent it.

There are plenty of interesting characters in Nearly Gone, from bad boys, Lonny Johnston and Vince DiMorello, the over achieving Anh Bui, Reece Whelan attempting to redeem himself, to Nearly's mother who we learn is brilliant but has wasted her life as a result of some bad choices.

I wish the author had taken the time to develop Nearly's use of her unusual ability to sense the emotions of others and to use this ability to solve the murders. 

For those readers who enjoy mysteries, the unusual storyline will be appealing.


Here's a video that explains (sort of) Schrodinger's cat experiment!



Book Details:
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
New York: Kathy Dawson Books 2014
386 pp.

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