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As I say almost every time, I received this book via a GoodReads drawing. Despite this kind and consideration my candid opinions follow.
Our protagonist, Frenchie, is in a definite funk. She's generally a rather dark and dour character in the best of times but over the past four months things seem to have gotten steadily worse since that boy down the street committed suicide...
For the second time in three days I'm writing a review about characters dealing with grief. While the first was grief as viewed from the outside by many different people, this grief is specific, hidden and deeply personal. Nobody knows Frenchie is grieving because nobody knows why she would have any reason to be grieving for this boy to whom she has ostensibly no connection. As the plot unfolds we learn the story of their hidden connection and see the reason for her sense of loss.
In general when I read books in the 'Young Adult' category I try to cut them a bit of slack. These are generally tuned down and simplified to fit comfortably into small and growing minds. Prepared though I was to make this allowance for this book I found it to be wholly unnecessary. Mrs Sanchez deals openly with a tough subject with no 'dumbing down.' Her characters are in real and obvious pain and deal with it in a way that is not only believable but moving.
Also when examining YA books I ask myself the simple question of whether I'd let my own teenager read the book. While there are a handful of profanities and some amount of smoking, this the real world and there's nothing that every kid hasn't heard 1,000 times by the time they're 13. Sanchez wonderfully balances a real world with the impressionability of her audience. The positive lessons provided about handling loss are more than ample repayment for any negative examples set.
In summary, I was touched by the author's portrayal of youthful grief and her protagonist was endearing and relatable even with the burden of her terrible secret. Weighing in at a 3-hour read it was a morning well spent and a helpful book to anyone dealing with loss. This book is what YA literature should be. Real characters in real situations with real lessons to teach to readers. You can keep your vampires and zombies. Sanchez has hit the proverbial nail firmly on the head.
I was drawn to this book because, well, I’m a sucker for long and elaborate titles. Fortunately, my love for long titles did not lead me astray. Frenchie Garcia’s obsession with death is a very real one — she lives on the down the street from a cemetery. But, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that her preoccupation with death is not only caused by her locale. The death of her classmate Andy Cooper occupies her thoughts and takes a toll on her relationship with her closest friends. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia reads more like a mystery than anything else. The story of Andy Cooper’s death and Frenchie’s role in it is slowly revealed as Frenchie’s life unravels.
Bits and pieces of Emily Dickinson’s poetry help take Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia to the next level. Frenchie loves Dickinson’s poems and finds comfort in her one-sided conversations with Dickinson. Each poem in the book gives meaning to Frenchie’s experiences. It’s also a great crash course in Dickinson’s poetry if you’re not familiar with it.
The book’s strongest point is the portrayal of Frenchie’s relationships with her close friends and parents. Even though the book is from Frenchie’s perspective, you can really get a sense of what her friends think of her and how they treat her. Frenchie’s emotional turmoil leads her to sabotage her own friendships, but they hold strong. Unfortunately, the issue of depression is not mentioned or addressed. Still, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is an interesting reflection on death and those it affects, as well as the strength of friendship.
Recommendation: Get it soon, especially if you’re a fan of Emily Dickinson! Review crossposted from Rich in Color: richincolor [.] com