Don’t Ask If I’m Okay
Published May 9, 2023
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About Don’t Ask If I’m Okay
Heartfelt and bittersweet, this coming-of age story explores the tender space of healing where grief meets love
A year ago, Gage survived a car accident that killed his best friend, Hunter. Without the person who always brought out the best in him, Gage doesn’t know who he is. He likes working as a fry cook and loves his small-town friends and family, but they weren’t in the wreck and he can’t tell them how much he’s still hurting. He just wants to forget all his pain and move on.
So when his stepdad shows him a dream job opening in one of his idol’s restaurants, Gage knows this is his chance to convince everyone and himself that he’s fine. To try to push past his grief once and for all, Gage applies for the job, asks out a crush, and volunteers to host a memorial for Hunter.
But the more Gage tries to ignore his grief, the more volatile it becomes.
When his temper finally turns on the people he loves, Gage must decide what real strength is—holding in his grief until it destroys him, or asking for help and revealing his broken heart for all to see.
My friend recently asked me what things are common to the books that I love. I think she asked what makes me love books or think they’re good or something more in that vein, but it started me thinking about what the common denominators are in the books that I tend to love and enjoy.
For me, one thing that comes up over and over is stories that explore the value of community, whether that’s in a friend group, family, or found family. I also love stories that wrestle with grief of some kind, because I think we don’t talk enough about that. And the relationships between characters are also really important to me, so I tend to love books with banter or compelling dialogue of some kind.
I feel like DON’T ASK IF I’M OKAY really hit all those marks for me. I loved Gage’s friend group and especially the way they functioned as a support group/community to help one another through dark times. My favorite scene was after they’ve finished watching part of a movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they need to go do something. One friend turns to Gage and says, “You have my sword.” Another tells Gage he has his bow. A third says, “And my Suburu.” Which straight up made me laugh out loud. So great.
I also cried through some of the scenes in which he’s caught in this spiral of grief. He’s listening to some bad advice about what grief looks like and how he should feel instead of healthy counsel, and I could just feel how much it was hurting him to believe that toxic stuff.
Which made his journey from that moment so much more powerful and meaningful.
The only thing that I’d say caught me off guard with this book is that for some reason I thought the story was going to be about him getting a new cooking job and starting that job and how that helps him. Pretty much the whole story takes place in his hometown. I loved his small Idaho town, though, so that was great. For some reason I was expecting something else from the book, but I’m not unhappy with the story I read.
On the whole, I think this is a great celebration of the importance of a support network and of emotional vulnerability. I loved it and I would definitely read more by Jessica Klara.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Major characters are white. Gage has panic attacks and PTSD-like symptoms resulting from a car accident that killed his cousin and best friend. Minor characters are POC and LGBTQIA+.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. References to making out.
Gage experiences some explosive feelings of anger. At one point he shouts at a younger cousin. A veteran visiting Gage’s house is triggered by a gunfire-like sound. Gage experiences slivers of memories from the car accident, including seeing his cousin’s lifeless face. In one scene, Gage throws a man out of a restaurant after an altercation that began when the man made inappropriate comments to a girl who was working as his server.
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