this review will contain spoilers, there will be warning. This book, and thus this review, will deal with some very serious topics that could be triggering for some. And while I think this is a great book for teens to read, I think its also extremely important that they have some warning that this book could become a huge trigger. I promise you for adequate warning before jumping into those topics in this review, but this is your trigger warning for both the book and my review of it.
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Description Laurel's first day of high school at her new school starts out with an assignment from her english teacher: write a letter to someone dead. So Laurel decides to write her first letter to Kurt Cobain, whom she has loved since her sister introduced her to Nirvana. But Laurel's sister died a few months ago, her mom took off to California, and Laurel doesn't know how to live anymore. Through these letters she starts to explore a new life she never in her worst nightmares thought she'd have to navigate, a life without her sister or mother for guidance. And through these letters, we learn about both Laurel and her sister May, and all the things that happened before May died.
So there were some great things about this book, especially those dealing with some really difficult child and teen situations. And I'll go into those a little bit, but as those will be spoilers I won't go into them just yet.
This book felt a little long to me. Laurel is so sad, so depressed. And she has every right to be - her parents divorce and then her sister/best friend dies right in front of her. Then, her mom runs away to California because she can't deal with her grief. Laurel has every reason to be depressed, every reason to be upset. She really does. And I'm ok with that, I'm ok that reading this book is kind of depressing because this is NOT a happy story. Its not a feel-good story. This is a story about healing. This is a story about accepting yourself, and learning to heal yourself. And that is not and easy thing to learn and do, so I am seriously ok with how depressing this story is at times. But it also felt like it was too long and drawn out.
Another thing that bugged me: she'd be writing these letters to famous dead people and she would start out with telling them their own history. And i understand the author's need to do that for us, her readers. I didn't know about Janice Joplin's childhood, River Phoenix's life, etc. But I didn't like them in letter context. Why would you send a letter to someone (even a hypothetical letter) explaining what you read up about their lives to them? they knew what happened to them growing up, they don't need you to rehash it in a letter. And maybe thats just me being overly picky, but if i'm writing a letter to someone - even a hypothetical letter - i'm not about to be like "Yo Katy Perry, you grew up in a crazy religious household but decided that life wasn't for you" and wax poetic about it.
I also don't like it when teen books start waxing poetic. And maybe thats just my brain transforming into adult-brain, but I just really don't like it. And thats just my own personal thing. Maybe high school me would've liked it, but college graduate, pretending to be an adult me doesn't like it.
Ok, so this is the part in the review where I'm going to talk about what I liked. But i can't get into that without getting into spoilers which will have some topics that could trigger some. This is your warning, I am about to post a bunch of gifs so you can run away before hand!
Ok here it goes...
I liked the content of this book. After their parent's divorce, May reacting in a self damaging way, which in turn inadvertently taught Laurel to respond to life and bad feelings in a self damaging way. May starts seeing an older man, she starts sneaking out and drinking. So when Laurel gets to her new school, she makes friends with a couple girls who drink and smoke and are damaged in their own way. So Laurel starts drinking and sneaking out with her friends. And thats ok, at first. Its just them, sneaking some booze and drinking at each others houses and generally being innocent.
And then Laurel meets Sky, the mysterious junior guy she's been attracted to since the moment she laid eyes on him. And they start dating. And I thought their relationship was great. It was sweet at first, but then you come to realize its damaged. Both of them have secrets they want to hide away forever, that they don't want the other to know. Neither wants to deal with the hardships they've been through, to open up and heal. And they don't work out because of it. And I thought that was amazing. I was one of those girls in high school, I wanted to someone to love me to fix me. And it wasn't until I broke up with a great guy, and we finally started talking that he said something important to me: "I can't truly love you when you can't love you". Or something along those lines. It wasn't hurtful, but it was a wakeup call. And I loved that Sky and Laurel didn't workout at first because they couldn't love themselves.
Overall, I think people should give this book a shot. Teens especially, though like I said, I'm sure it'll be on the ban list for many people. It deals with some really important issues that most books don't. Overall, I would definitely suggest it.