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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.