“How will I survive this missing? How do others do it? People die all the time. Every day. Every hour. There are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn. Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo. There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are ripping to shreds. For years. For their whole lives. I don’t believe time heals. I don’t want it to. If I heal, doesn’t that mean I’ve accepted the world without her?”
For seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, life will never be the same after her sister Bailey’s unexpected death. The days are harsher and colder, time drags on, and the silence is so vast it feels like it will swallow her whole. There is nothing but endless emptiness, and days, weeks and months of missing and losing Bailey over and over again. Lennie just cannot see a life without her sister in it.
She retreats from her good-natured uncle Big, and her gentle and kind Gram, the grandmother who raised her and Bailey after their own mother left them for no reason when they were just babies. She retreats even from her best friend Sarah, who can usually cheer her up with a snap of a finger and her colorful vocabulary. Instead, Lennie finds herself seeking solace and comfort in the arms of Toby Shaw, Bailey’s boyfriend, the other person closest to her sister that can understand the immense sorrow that she is going through, because everyday it’s the same way for him, too.
And then Lennie meets Joe Fontaine, the new guy at band club, and he is beautiful, talented, funny, and just the endless burst of sunshine in her dreary, tear-soaked world. Joe manages to break down her stubborn walls and reach out to her, and for the first time since losing Bailey, she’s got something, someone, to smile and feel happy about.
One boy shares her broken heart and the deep void that will never be filled again. Another boy shows her that there’s life after Bailey, and it’s a big new life filled with great possibilities. As much as Lennie wants to keep Toby and Joe in her life, she knows she cannot have them both, and she must make the tough decision of choosing one, before she loses them both for good.
Everything about this book is beautiful. All emotions are illuminated by Jandy Nelson’s writing. It’s sad and heartbreaking as she takes readers deep into the complexities of grief and loss. But it’s also sharp, witty and funny. I found myself giggling over some chapters, because Lennie, after all, is still an awkward teenager finally discovering the effects she has on boys, and vice versa. Her poetry is raw and heartfelt. It’s one of the most captivating books I’ve read, and definitely one I will remember for a long time.