Carrie Ryan: Haunted at 17


My new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out tomorrow, 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 Carrie Ryan revealing how she ended up haunting herself when she was 17 years old…

Guest post by Carrie Ryan

(Carrie Ryan at 17.)
(Carrie Ryan at 17.)

“Carrie, you are only 17. Live long and enjoy your life. You are a person, so stand up and be one. In life, not everyone will like you, that is a fact all people must face. In the same respect, many people will like you, so make sure it’s the real you they like.”

—From my journal, May 1, 1995 (when I was 17)

What haunted me when I was 17? Myself. I still have my journals from high school, and reading back over them, there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear: I was always getting in my own way. Trying so desperately to figure out who I was that I wasn’t allowing myself to just be.

I was haunted by this idea that there could be this perfect me out there—that I could find some sort of combination of traits and qualities that would make me work. And by work I mean would make me feel settled in my own skin. I spent a lot of time chasing after an idea of myself that people would admire, love, respect, desire.

Usually I merely appropriated what I saw and liked in others: if I met someone I admired for their mastery of an instrument, then I tried to become adept at an instrument as well. Same with soccer and painting and poetry (ugh, if you asked me what haunts me now, I’d have to say some of the wretched angsty poetry I wrote in high school).

I tried to be the same (same clothes, same taste in music, same likes & dislikes) and I tried to be different (outspoken, brazen, athletic). Even as I told myself I was just expressing who I truly was, I knew there was no such thing. I wasn’t much of anything; instead I became a reflection of attributes that I admired in other people.

In many respects ghosts are apparitions of a person truly alive, and at 17, that’s what I was: a shadow who desperately wanted to believe that she was real. Who didn’t understand what it really meant to “be yourself,” because I was anything but myself (though don’t get me wrong—there were strong flickers of the woman I’d become even then).

When I think back to myself at 17, I think of all the ghosts in school around me and in my mind, that’s who they all still are. It’s always strange to run into those people—my former friends and classmates—now, because most of them have become vibrantly alive.

And I always find it curious that whenever I visit a school, there’s a moment when I feel like that old ghost of myself—the girl at 17 who so desperately wanted to be herself but didn’t know what that meant—stirring inside me. She’s the shadow that still clings to me and whispers, “What happens if you’re yourself and they don’t like you?”

And in the end, I tell her the same thing she told herself at 17: not everyone will like you, but many will. Sometimes it’s an answer that satisfies both of us, and sometimes it satisfies neither.

That’s the thing about hauntings—they’re remnants of a thing that came before, and they’re almost impossible to get rid of.

ForetoldCarrie Ryan is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Forest of Hands and Teeth series, which has been translated into over eighteen languages and is in development as a major motion picture. She is also the editor of the anthology Foretold: 14 Tales of Prophecy and Prediction, as well as the author of Infinity Ring: Divide and Conquer, the second book in Scholastic’s new multi-author/multi-platform series for middle grade readers. A former litigator, Carrie now writes full time and lives with her husband, two fat cats, and one large dog in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Find her online at

Follow @carrieryan 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!

You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


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 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 an image that made me think of Abby at this stop at Confessions of a Readaholic.
  • Kristina Perez has interviewed me for her Madeleine Project. Come find out my answers to some of the most important questions.
  • 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 Melissa Walker at 17?


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