So my name is Rashika and I am weird. I read a lot (duh) and I watch a lot of TV. I also like to review. Check out my blog (where I co-blog with awesome people).
***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato
WARNING: This book may cause you to spend a whole day feeling down.
“There are some things I can’t tell anyone, except the people who aren’t here anymore”
This is honestly a very hard book to review. It brought out a lot of mixed feelings in me. I went back and forth between being pissed and loving the book and it wasn’t until the 3rd third that I decided that this book was wonderful. A warning though, if you don’t like drama, avoid this. This is filled with teenage angst and teenage angst can sometimes induce nightmares about how much high school sucked (or well I still have 3 more months of that nightmare left) but in spite of everything this book turned out to be so beautiful.
It tells a tale of loss and how to deal with it. It deals with how we sometimes build people up to be these perfect untouchable things in our minds and don't want to believe that they aren't that perfect because they become our rocks. It tells a story about learning to accept yourself and it’s a tale about forgiveness.
Laurel is starting high school at a school where she doesn’t know anyone. She didn’t go to the same school as everyone else in her 8th grade because she didn’t want to go to the same high school her sister, May, went to. At the start of this novel, Laurel is drowning in grief and guilt. She believes that her sister died because of her. When her teacher gives them an assignment which asks them to write a letter to dead person, she chooses to write a letter to her sister’s favorite artist, Kurt Cobain.
Laurel is such a heart breaking character. She has an innocence to her which makes you want to wrap your arms around her and never let go. She is such a complex character and you really feel for her. She comes from a broken family. Her parents aren’t bad but divorce has a way of tearing families apart and it tore hers too. She doesn’t fit in and she doesn’t know how to fit in. She is stuck in a world without her sister and she doesn’t know how to carry on so when her English teacher gives her the assignment, she finds a way to pour out her feelings. She has someone to talk to, someone who won’t judge her.
But the author doesn’t just stop there; she develops a wonderful entourage of secondary characters. From Hannah to Natalie to Kristen to Tristan to Sky you cannot help but fall in love with each of them. There is so much depth to all of these characters and all of them break your heart in some capacity.
“We were here. Our lives matter.”
My favorite bit about this book however was how the author brought all our beloved celebrities/idols to life in her work. My heart broke for them. She made their stories come to life and it really just broke my heart all over again. She does it so beautifully too. This woman is so GODDAMN TALENTED.
The romance was well developed. Sky is a sweet love interest. He pulls some jerk moves but his reasons are so realistic that you cannot help but forgive him. He doesn’t want to be with someone who is drowning in grief because he cannot do anything about it. She won’t tell him how he can help and you can understand his choices because it’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love drown in grief and not be able to do anything about it. It hurts you almost as much as the person who is hurting and honestly, I don’t blame Sky. There were some things Laurel needed to realize on her own and until she did so, there relationship could not have worked.
This is a very character driven book because at its heart, it’s a coming of age story and we join Laurel in her journey. A lot of the people she writes to died tragic deaths, from Kurt Cobain to Jim Morrison to Heath Ledger to Amy Winehouse etc. Some of them took their own lives, some of them died of drug overdose and some of them just never made it back. While writing to these various people, she grows and she learns that not everything is perfect. Her sister wasn’t perfect. All these wonderful people weren’t perfect either and so the healing starts. Laurel has to learn to forgive herself and her sister but she also needs to realize that she doesn’t need to be perfect. She can be broken and really all she needs is to be herself.
With all that said one of the biggest draw backs of this story for me as a reader was the fact that the character was in 9th grade. 9th grade is a very awkward time because you’re just starting high school but at the same time you’ve just left middle school so you’re right hovering on the fence between becoming a young adult and starting your journey to becoming an adult. The problem with this is that it contradicts the essence of Laurel’s character. Laurel comes off to me as a very naïve person. She is very innocent but then she is thrust into very mature situations and I am not sure what to make of that. It’s like the author couldn’t decide what she wanted so she mashed the two together and well the result wasn’t all that enjoyable. Perhaps if this book had been one or the other, an MG or with a character who was not ‘just’ starting high school, it would have been more favorable. For example, Saving June dealt with something similar and because of the age of the main character the book was a lot easier to swallow.
Having said that, this book really was touching. I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone but the grief in this book is so profound that I know that I don’t want to know. This book really is powerful and I am definitely going to be on the look-out for other works by the author.
Note that all quotes have been taken from an uncorrected proof and may be subject to change.