‘Message Not Found’ Will Make You Feel Better About Being a Messy Human Being

Your best friend is gone. But you have the ability to bring her back — sort of — with the power of AI.

Your best friend is gone. But you have the ability to bring her back — sort of — with the power of AI. Very Black Mirror, sure. But there’s so much you never got to tell her. There’s so much she never had the chance to tell you. Do you bring her back? Just for a little while?

Bailey is smart enough to capture the essence of Vanessa forever thanks to years of text messages and Instagram posts. Her best friend may be gone, but she could live on forever thanks to machine learning.

Although … that Black Mirror reference wasn’t just for jokes. Things could go very, very wrong. Very, very fast.

Okay, fine. So Message Not Found technically doesn’t have the same fallout as that haunting Black Mirror episode we’re all trying not to think too deeply about all these years later. But bad things DO happen. Because through trying to “feed the machine,” as Bailey calls it, she accidentally-maybe-sort-of-on-purpose discovers that Vanessa wasn’t the spotless popular best friend she thought she knew.

I adored this book. It reminded me a lot of Wintergirls but without all the ghosts (and not nearly as dark). Grief is something everyone has to face at some point, it doesn’t matter if you’re in your final hours of high school or in your later years of living. It hurts. Everyone understands grief, even if they don’t personally know what you’ve gone through.

The most intriguing part of this book for me was its message about perfection, and how none of us are succeeding in our quest to be flawless as we try to make the rest of the world believe. I’ve done some pretty awful things (I survived adolescence, after all), but I’ve never done what Vanessa did.

Still, Bailey figures out how to appreciate who Vanessa was to her despite her failures. That’s deep. When people die, you only want to think about them at their best. Maybe that’s not it. Maybe we’re supposed to embrace our loved ones’ pasts no matter their darkest eras.

You’ll love this book if you love best friend drama, reliving college-bound terrors, and remember what it was like to fall in love with someone only to realize you could do so, so much better.

Message Not Found is available now wherever books are sold.

Meg Dowell is the creator of Brain Rush, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words, and Not a Book Hoarder, celebrating books of all kinds. She is an editor, writer, book reviewer, podcaster, and photographer. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about nonsense and Star Wars.