Lennie Walker feels abandoned. Not just because her mother disappeared when she was a year old, but as the quirky, clarinet-playing, little sister to her queen-of-the-stage sister Bailey, Lennie has never really had to stand out on her own. She could hide in her sister’s shadow and never have to worry about being noticed. That is, until the day that Bailey dies. Lennie’s whole world is turned upside down by this one event.
Left behind to ponder how she will go on, Lennie isn’t alone. Bailey’s boyfriend Toby can’t seem to stay away from their family as they’re the only ones he can commiserate with. Unfortunately for Lennie, the line dividing her and Bailey into two individuals becomes blurred when Toby can’t seem to stay away from her. This does not bode well for anyone, especially the new flame in town who is head-over-heels for Lennie.
And not to be outdone, there is even more drama at home with Lennie’s Grandmother and Uncle Big who want to help her move through this tough time. They keep trying to get her to pack up Bailey’s things and talk to them about what she’s feeling, when all Lennie wants to do is keep Bailey’s memory alive as long as she can; even if it means shutting out the world. The thing is, you can only run from the truth for so long before you’re winded and it catches up to you.
Absolutely beautiful. That’s what comes to mind when I think of this book. I wanted to read it slowly so that I could savor it, but it was so page-turning that I couldn’t stop myself. Lennie is about as real as it gets. I swear she could have walked right off the page and danced in my living room. She is vivacious and funny, poignant and thoughtful, and above all conflicted. This story is about love, loss, recovery, and learning. Life is not easy and it most certainly isn’t fair and that is never more obvious than when you’re a teenager.
I found myself laughing out loud at the hilarious parts (a massive arborist uncle who tries to revive deceased bugs under replica Egyptian pyramids?) and sobbing at the most difficult scenes. My heart actually broke with the characters and I rejoiced when they triumphed. The writing was wonderful with a colorful vocabulary and the style is one that I am very fond of: there is poetry (written by the main character) scattered throughout the book and throughout the setting. This very natural habit to document emotions makes Lennie even more present in my mind.
Truly, I believe that Jandy Nelson has joined the likes of many great authors of contemporary YA fiction: Sarah Dessen, Francesca Lia Block, and Laurie Halse Anderson come to mind. This is book is imaginative, powerful, genuine, and unforgettable. I don’t think I know anyone who couldn’t empathize and understand this book, so go ahead and read it.
-Laura R. from Duraleigh Road