Gayle Forman: Haunted at 17


My new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out this week on March 21, and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s Gayle Forman revealing the ghost she was chasing when she was 17 years old…

Guest post by Gayle Forman

This is me at 17. I’m the girl in the middle with the large gray cardigan and the blow-dryer pointing at her head. I don’t look particularly haunted, do I? I wasn’t.

I was happy. Happier than I’d ever been in my life. I’d just spent most of the previous year living in England, in this dinky little village of 500 people, and somehow had wound up at this crazy school full of the loveliest anarchists and punks and poets and hippies and musicians and brainiacs and weirdoes you could find. It was the first time in my life I’d felt part of a community like that, and the first time that the suspicion that I’d always harbored—that life could be bigger than it was in my suburban town—was proven gloriously true.

But two months later, I was back in my suburban town and I was miserable and sad and feeling like that entire experience was made-up. That it was a haunting, a spectral reality that hadn’t really existed, that I’d only conjured. I didn’t want to escape my haunting. I wanted it back.

So I chased it. For years. I traveled after high school instead of going to college and I traveled while I was in college. I traveled as a journalist and then when I got married, I traveled around the world for a year with my husband.

But though I loved traveling—loved all the things it taught me and all the ways it changed me and all the people it introduced me to—and though it showed me how big the world was, I don’t know that I captured that sense of largeness I’d found, and had been haunted by, the year I lived in my little village.

I only captured the ghost, so to speak, when I stopped chasing it. When I settled down in Brooklyn, and found the loveliest community of punks and hippies and writers and parents and artists and chefs and activists and teachers and musicians. Life feels strangely big here, even when my daily range doesn’t take me that far from home (though five miles from home is the Center of the Universe). As it turned out, the big life I was looking for all along, it didn’t have so much to do with location (though I can’t imagine living anywhere other than here) so much as finding the meaning in my own life in the context of a larger community.

I will have to stage a mass photo on a bed, with guitar and hair dryer, and then the haunting will truly be over.

Just One Day

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, The Nation, and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Find her online at

Follow @gayleforman on Twitter.


Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up at the end of the week!


Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me on Friday, March 22 at the Union Square Barnes & Noble or Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • The 17 & Gone Blog Tour is all about the images that spoke to me—and inspired and illuminated parts of the story—while I was writing the book. I collected them all on my Pinterest inspiration board, and each stop on the blog tour reveals one of these images and a passage inspired by it. Here’s the first stop: my guest post on Mundie Moms.
  • I’m touched and honored to say that Courtney Summers is holding a giveaway for 17 & Gone right now—she’s been so kind and supportive, which means extra-much to me because I admire her like whoa! She’s giving away 17 & Gone (along with an ARC of the anthology Defy the Dark). Enter her Facebook giveaway. This giveaway closes soon!
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.


What haunted Tiffany Trent at 17?


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