Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: You Are Not Here

Samantha Schutz
Scholastic, Inc.

When Brian - the boy she loved but wasn't quite dating - dies suddenly, Annaleah has no one to share in her grief. She never met his family or his friends, and he never met hers. And in the aftermath of their mostly-secret relationship she must somehow find a way to go on even as all her questions about life and death, him and her, are left unanswered.

Written in verse, You Are Not Here is, more than anything else, an exploration of grief. But it's also a story of imperfect romance and a love that may not have been reciprocated. Because Annaleah is so deep in her grief, so completely drowning in it for much of the book, and also because this is a story told in verse, it's hard to get a sense of who Annaleah is. She's isolated herself from her mother and friends, which is understandable but often makes it difficult to know who she is apart from Brian and her grief over him.

That said, this is an expertly-written novel in verse. As in her previous work (I Don't Want to be Crazy), it's obvious that Samantha Schutz has a gift for telling stories in such a non-traditional way and Annaleah's feelings, both emotional and physical, come through so clear through the poetry of this book.

There were times, sadly, when the events of Annaleah's story struck me as just a little bit too easy, especially toward the end of her journey. However, it's clear that these events are meant to show Annaleah just how much she'd isolated herself from others and buried herself in her grief. Despite my misgivings, this is a book I'd easily recommend for readers looking for a story of grief or a novel written in verse.

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