If you think you can escape from reading Dante Medema’s new novel Message Not Found without being at least misty-eyed by the end, you’re either incredibly strong-willed or insane.
Bailey and Vanessa have been best friends since they were young, and they were so close that they were practically sisters. They shared everything with one another: secrets, dreams, and packets of Pop Rocks as a way to cope with bad days. All of that disappears from Bailey’s life when Vanessa leaves Bailey’s house to go home, and is found dead after swerving off a cliff nowhere near where she lived.
Desperate to have some semblance of Vanessa back in her life, Bailey creates a chatbot of Vanessa using years of text message threads, social media posts, and emails. The more she adds into the chatbot, the more it feels like she is speaking to the real Vanessa.
But the question of why Vanessa was found far from home still lingers, and Bailey is determined to uncover the secrets that may have led to Vanessa’s death.
This is not a thriller murder mystery book
Message Not Found will take you down numerous emotional twists and turns as Bailey struggles to find her footing in a world without Vanessa, but it is not a thriller mystery or a dark ‘whodunit’ story.
The mystery of this book relates more to Bailey’s desperation in finding out the answers to why Vanessa’s body was found far from where she said she was going and about what secrets Vanessa was hiding from Bailey when they shared everything with one another.
This book, more or less, takes us through Bailey’s journey of the five stages of grief after Vanessa’s death: denial at her death, and creating a chatbot to pretend that her friend is alive a little bit longer; anger at each one of Vanessa’s secret that she was not aware of; depression, leading to her faltering grades; and more.
And that is what makes this novel so powerful: it does not need to include a murder mystery to enrapture its audience, because grief in and of itself is such a forceful message to share.
Message Not Found digs deep into the pain of grief
Dante Medema really knows how to translate raw grief into her pages. Message Not Found is an emotional rollercoaster that will not easily let you go. Medema excellently illustrates the harsh reality of losing a loved one and, at times, the hurt that can stem from being unable to confront that loved one when their secrets come out.
I have been fortunate enough to not have experienced the death of a best friend, but Medema’s writing truly made me at least understand that pain. There were many tears shed while reading this book, that’s for sure!
Message Not Found is a cozy read that examines grief in all stages. Have a box of tissues handy–you’re going to need them!
Message Not Found by Dante Medema was released on March 29th, 2022.