I love that description - "realistic fiction" - because that's exactly what it was, fiction that could happen to anybody.
What can I say that other reviewers haven't already?
I take everything I said about Sara Zarr back. I still stand by what I said about "Once Was Lost", but Zarr, as a writer, is incredible.
She knows how to make you relate with every single character: from rebellious and hurt Jill, to creepily hollow Mandy, to grieving Robin, to confused Dylan and to understanding Ravi. Every single character in this book had an important part to play in those girls' lives.
Mandy is such a difficult girl to like, and yet Zarr makes sure that you do end up liking her and even rooting for her. Your emotions towards her transform as the book progresses right along with Jill's emotions towards her. Mandy can come off as creepy, and strange. Her dialogue is a little scary at times, almost stalker-like, obsessive and very manipulative. But then...there are certain moments, certain things she says in her narrative that make you stop and think - wow, that was deep. And as Mandy's past is revealed, and as her story unfolds, you start feeling protective over her. You want to save her.
Jill, on the other hand, comes off as the typical rebellious teenage daughter. But there's a catch - her father had just recently passed away in a car crash. Her father, who was her best friend, role model, and "mirror". Her father, who was the only person who really understood her and could make her a better person. Her anchor was gone, and she felt lost and hurt and confused. Naturally, it caused her to lash out. Because she was hurting, she needed to hurt those around her as well. She didn't know how to express her emotions or how to make people understand what she was going through. She always felt and thought one thing, but expressed and said another thing - and that, I could totally relate to. So many times I feel exactly the same way and wish I could actually say what I feel. Jill was on this quest to try and remember her old self, but try and find her future self at the same time. She needed to get out of this downwards spiral before it was too late and she had no one left. She needed to be saved.
This is such a great story, with such great characters, and even greater twists and turns. This is what I would call a complete novel.
(On a separate note, I think this book would make such a great young adult film. The entire time I could clearly visualize Ellen Page playing Jill's part.)
Sara Zarr, I am glad I gave you another shot and started reading this book right after reading "Once Was Lost".
You have truly redeemed yourself.