I rate this young adult story 2 out of 5 stars. Thank you so much Penguin Teen for sending this book to me in exchange for an honest review.
I was incredibly excited for this book. As someone who suffers from severe depression I like to read books that focus on mental illness or have story lines relating to it. I went into this book expecting something completely different from what it ended up being. Unfortunately, after some thought, I was mostly just disappointed in a book that had great potential.
Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.
Jonah, the first boy she’d told she loved and the first boy to say it back.
Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.
Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?
As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.
The writing is easy enough to get into right away and I read this book in only a couple of hours. At times I did find myself laughing and enjoying main character Tess and her “give-no-craps” attitude. I did enjoy the relationship that developed between Tess and her father. While her father had his own set of issues and was far from being a great dad he started to get his act together more through out the book. By the end it was obvious they really helped each other grow. Also, the idea of them doing unique funerals was really special. Celebrating the life of those who have passed on and in that way help manage grief for those who lost someone they care about was a great and meaningful topic to explore in a young adult book.
For things I did not like, I found this whole book for the most part to be unbelievable. Tess was grieving over her friend Jonah’s suicide, or was he her boyfriend? Honestly, I am not even sure on this part other than they loved each other after only meeting once while she was drunk and then talking online all the time for six months after that first meeting. Tess acted crazy and I know loss affects everyone differently but to me dropping out of school, almost drowning, and being a complete mess seems extreme for this sort of situation, again they only met once!
Now I am going to go into a SPOILERS and a huge rant, if you would like to skip this part then turn away!! I genuinely believe Daniel’s part in this should have been non existent. Daniel was the most unconvincing character in the whole book. I’m confused by him, is he bisexual? Straight? Not sure? Because he is kind of freakily obsessed with Jonah after just becoming roommates, gets jealous of the relationship between Jonah and Tess, and falls in love with Tess while pretending to be Jonah? (from this confusion the potential for a great diverse character was completely lost) Jonah falls deeply into his depression and tells Daniel to say goodbye to Tess for him. Instead of telling Tess the truth and letting her know what was going on with Jonah, Daniel keeps lying and pretending to be Jonah. His explanation for lying to Tess is that he loved her right after the two messages they exchanged that night when Jonah had asked him to say goodbye to her for him. I’m sorry I must be missing something right because all I see is creeperville? Not to mention that this just shows Tess knew Jonah for even less than six months because half the time she was actually talking to someone else, but sure yes keep acting like Jonah was the love of your life. The icing on the cake? When Daniel shows up at her home town out of the blue after minimal explanation of the cat fishing and then jump ahead a bit and they fall in love… Thats when I gave up all hope on this book. This just sounds like the start to a really freaky romance in which both people get clingy and obsessed way to quickly and none of it can end well.
I wish this book had focused more on a genuine relationship between Jonah and Tess and then his suicide and Tess dealing with that grief and loss while finding herself and building a relationship with her father. I think everything else should have been cut out. It really swept such a huge topic, suicide, under the rug and what was left was an unconvincing story. While there were good parts they were overshadowed by weird and disconnected characters and topics. I think some may really enjoy this book but unfortunately it was not for me.