Jenna Lord has already died three times in her short life: twice by fire and now by ice. She’s made it through all that to realize she may have nothing left to live for. She sits in the hospital telling her story for the detective in the recorder he gave her. But there’s a story and there’s the truth and sometimes people can’t know which is which. There’s her teacher that’s more than just her teacher, her brother that’s more like a ghost, her parents that want to live a lie, and then there’s her. Telling this story is a bit like drowning. The deeper she gets the more she struggles for air, and the more likely she is to pull someone down with her.
Leave it to Bick to write a novel MORE depressing than her book about a zombie apocalypse (Ashes YP FIC BICK). Then again, for us Kevin Brooks, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, etc. fans, dark and depressing makes for the best reads! This is a gut wrenchingly tough read at times and it is certainly not for everyone. I really loved Jenna’s dark sarcastic voice and found her compelling and real. The first person talking into a recorder trick really works to make the book feel intimate and conspiratorial; since this is a book about secrets and lies, it brings the novel to another level. Jenna is a self-described ‘liar’ and even when she’s telling ‘the truth’ it’s her ‘truth’. I highly recommend this to fans of very dark contemporary fiction, but be aware: this book is dangerous*. The ‘relationship’ that develops between Jenna and Mr. Anderson is presented entirely from Jenna’s POV and that’s where things get tricky. Jenna doesn’t see this as a predator/victim relationship and we get her point of view of falling in love with her adult teacher. That moral gray area in something as absolutely inappropriate, immoral, unethical, and illegal as the relationship actually is makes for very uncomfortable reading. However, Bick wants her readers uncomfortable and packs enough sad and sick gut punch twists throughout the book that even the most jaded of readers is going to eventually start to get involved in the book on a real emotional level. The most impressive thing is that this doesn’t feel crass and manipulative like it might in the hands of a lesser writer. This is my favorite feel-bad book of the summer! I won’t say it was fun, I didn’t quite ‘enjoy’ it, but I’m glad to have read it and I’ll be thinking about it for a long while.
*Lots of great fiction is dangerous, but it’s also not for everyone.
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