Jaycee intends to spend the anniversary of her brother Jake’s death the same way she spent the last one: exploring an abandoned building with her brother’s best friend. Jake’s death fractured Jaycee’s entire community, and even though it’s been five years since his death, her relationships remain in the same ruined condition as the broken mental institution she visits.
Her friends are determined to reach her, though. Even Mik, with whom Jaycee feels a powerful if wordless connection. As grief pushes Jaycee closer and closer to the edge, her friends realize the only way to save her is to join her and look into the face of all they lost the night Jake died.
This might be my favorite book so far this year. (Yes… I know, I just reviewed Winter! And it was great! But…. This book is something special.) I loved each of the characters. They felt desperately real, hopelessly flawed, and I couldn’t help rooting for them to work through the angst and grief and all the things that have been holding them back.
I LOVED how McCarthy uses images to tell the story. One character’s experience is related entirely in pictures of graffiti he’s posted in places the characters travel. And Mik – the boy who rarely speaks – had his story told in graphic novel panels. I’ve never seen that done before, but it really captured that silent-but-present feeling that he brought to the story. He was my favorite, but he doesn’t have a huge lead over some of the other characters. They were all just great.
One of the things I thought was great about this story, too, is that even though it’s all about how Jaycee idolizes her brother and how tragic his death is, the tale also goes into some of the way that keeping that lost person on a pedestal can become unhealthy. Sometimes our memories get warped and we only want to remember the good parts, which can sometimes be damaging. I also liked how the story dealt with the loss of this one person, but showed how the accident had more of a global effect on the community.
Despite all the things I loved, there’s some mature content in this novel. Check the information below to see if it’s the right read for you or one you feel comfortable recommending.
Natalie and her boyfriend Zack have had sex. At one point, he wants to go to a party, and she uses the promise of sex to deter him from going. They disappear into the woods to have sex at one point, but the event isn’t described. One night she puts herself in a compromising position with a boy known for taking advantage of girls. She’s too drunk to know if anything happened between them, but it’s possible that she slept with him.
Jaycee wonders about Mik’s romantic history. He’s older than she is, and she worries that he has more experience than she does. He patiently answers her questions, but doesn’t offer details. At one point they reach under each other’s shirts and touch for a moment.
Jaycee dwells mostly on things from Jake’s life and very little on whether he’s in heaven or somewhere now that he’s gone.
There are a couple of skirmishes between the boys. Nothing grisly. One boy’s older brother picks on him relentlessly. One girl has issues with cutting. It’s only mentioned peripherally.
Zack really likes getting drunk. Natalie drinks too much at a party and pays some serious consequences. Jaycee and Zack drink together in an abandoned building. Jaycee gets buzzed pretty easily because she doesn’t usually drink.