I love a good mystery, and I don’t think I’m alone in that – just ask fans of Veronica Mars, Columbo or Sherlock. And based off the popularity of the million and seven versions of CSI currently on the air, people are more than a little intrigued at the prospect of solving a case using forensic science. Elle Cosimano’s Nearly Found, the follow-up to last year’s Nearly Gone, combines these elements in an intricate mystery supplemented by some crime lab investigative tricks.
If you read Nearly Gone, you’re familiar with logic-minded Nearly Boswell, who was entrenched in a personal investigation into the vicious murders of several classmates. While there is a little bit of crossover, Nearly Found generally functions as a standalone with its own new mystery. The characters cross over, but the plot focuses on how Nearly uses her internship at a crime lab to figure out who is leaving her coded threats and why, and what that has to do with her own father’s disappearance several years before.
If you’re like me and you didn’t read Nearly Gone, I have good news and bad news. Good news: Nearly Found is surprisingly easy to pick up, even given the intricacies of the first book. You get all the relevant information laid out pretty quickly in the first chapter, and it’s not even an info dump! Then everything else you need to know gets sprinkled gradually into the narrative as the book progresses, so it’s never overwhelming.
And now the bad news: The first book established Nearly’s relationship with all the main characters in Nearly Found. Because I missed out on that, I felt there was significant character and relationship growth and change that didn’t really resonate with me as much as it would have if I had seen those relationships build in Nearly Gone. Nearly has an intriguing backstory as well as a unique ability to taste emotion when she touches people. I thought these things added some interesting dimension to the story, but I would have loved to have seen them explored more deeply. I kept wondering if they were a more important piece of the first book, and maybe would have appreciated them more if I had that background.
So yes, I’d recommend reading these books in order if at all possible, but I still had fun jumping in at the middle. Cosimano’s writing is clear and unaffected, deftly balancing a fast-paced plot with a fairly complex mystery. I appreciated that Cosimano didn’t just take the easy route with the mystery but instead added several layers to it, forcing Nearly to examine her own conclusions carefully to see the big picture. I also loved that the book didn’t shy away from some high stakes. Nearly takes some major chances throughout the story, and there are several harrowing passages ranging from creepy to terrifying.
Mystery, and particularly this type of mystery, is really underrepresented in YA. We constantly read about teens in life-threatening dystopias and fantasies, but it’s not that often we see it in a contemporary setting, and particularly not when paired with a thoughtful mystery. I don’t know why there’s a dearth of this type of YA book, but it certainly made reading Nearly Found a unique and engaging experience. As an added bonus, Nearly Found eschews a lot of the common contemporary YA tropes, focusing hard on the puzzle at its core, so I think this is definitely a series with appeal above and beyond YA audiences. If you’re looking for something a little dark, a little different, and a lot of fun, definitely keep an eye out for Nearly Found, and don’t forget to check out Nearly Gone for the full-series experience!