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I managed to read this in its entirety on a plane ride from Jacksonville, FL, back to Seattle; it’s a simple and pretty light YA read, and not too long, from a quite accomplished young writer, Amanda Linehan (she’s written three novels now, and a substantial amount of short fiction).
The premise is centered around a teen girl called Marissa, and several of her close friends, as they try to find closure to their friend Olivia’s sudden death in a car accident. They have questions as to whether it’s even an accident, and then go on a mission to find a journal that’s supposedly hidden in the woods, based on information that Olivia’s younger sister has.
Admittedly, I totally went along with this plot, although there were actually a few holes (now that I look back), so I quickly read this, but this is lighter young adult fare than most of the stuff I usually read. But the fact that it wasn’t a heavy read wasn’t really what I ended up being frustrated by.
I understand that these are teenagers and that they may not have been ready to deal with the fact that their friend had passed away. I DO feel that if you write a novel where death and subsequent grief (and questions about it) are the reasons for the story, it must be addressed with a bit more clarity and seriousness. Sometimes I felt like the language and conversation were moving in that direction but it didn’t quite get there. I may be expecting that the audience wants that but maybe it did hit at the right level? It’s hard to know; accepting the death of a teenage friend would be difficult to talk about, so the way in which the friends ‘walk through’ the story may be apt. I’ve been through sudden ‘inexplicable’ loss and I know my own reaction so I only have that to compare it to. I suppose I wanted this to be an opportunity to look at the feelings behind grief more thoroughly.
I also see immense talent in Linehan that is bursting to get through; I have another of her novels to read and review that she has written some 5 years after this one. I am interested to see how this compares to her newest book. Her writing style is fluid and incredibly easy-going for young readers who want a simple page-turner with a little bit of adventure, suspense, romance (just a bit!), and some thought-provoking ideas.