Laurie Faria Stolarz first came to my attention in 2007, when Project 17 was first published. I enjoy reading about weird shiz, and an abandoned mental institution set for upcoming demolition definitely counts as such, so I immediately added it to my wishlist. Then I tracked down the author’s Stacey Brown series, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (Minus the graphic novel, Black Is for Beginnings – it’s more character-driven than plot-oriented.)
Only recently did I manage to buy Project 17. Set in the same Stolarzverse as Bleed, a collection of connected short stories I read during the past year, six teens embark on making a reality film.
Derik LaPointe’s parents are grooming him to take over running the family’s diner, but he’d rather become a videographer. Entering this reality film-making contest should help him on his way. Liza Miller is too perfect to connect with, so readers may find her off-putting. Tony Cassis doesn’t really have a plot, but he’s tacked onto Greta Barbosa’s. An actress not getting the lead roles she wants, Greta’s time during the filming goes deep inside an unexpected character.
Chet will ring familiar with the author’s fans; he’s like Amber and PJ from the Stacey Brown series. But instead of being just the designated comic relief, Chet has depth – we learn why he mucks around so much, and it’s a truth that really strikes a chord.
But Mimi’s journey is the one most connected with the institution, and comes to a heartbreaking conclusion.
The abandoned mental institution drew me to this novel, and its history is definitely the highlight. There are hints at a haunting, but I brushed them aside and enjoyed the story for what it is: not really about the teens who film it, rather the institution’s former inhabitants. Suspension of disbelief is required to tolerate the happenstances of the therapy and patients’ things still being left around, even though it closed in 1992.
I would’ve loved to learn more about the therapies and patients, but as it is Project 17 packs a mighty emotional, unforgettable punch.