Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz

You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz tells the story of Annaleah, who is experiencing deep grief after the sudden depth of the boy she liked. The boy she was having a secret relationship with. Brian is dead and Annaleah just wants to be dead with him.

Annaleah and Brian shared something special - Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn't need anyone else. It didn't matter that their relationship was secret. All that mattered was what they had with each other.
And then, out of nowhere, Brian dies. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss that no one will let you have?

Annaleah has been "dating" Brian, a boy from a town nearby. Unfortunately theirs was basically a hidden relationship so now, with Brian gone, she really has no one to experience the grieving process with. Her friends warned her about seeing him because he would not let others know they were dating. Annaleah never told her mom and she never met any of Brian's friends. She truly has no one so she spends all her time at Brian's grave site, talking to him.

This is a book that explores the depths of grief and the reality of the grieving process. I think teens will relate well to just how much Annaleah is grieving. I personally did not relate very well to her at all. In fact, I wasn't at all that sympathetic with her character. I feel that's rather hard-hearted of me, but I did not think Brian was exactly the great guy she imagined. However, that isn't my sole issue. I just could not get into her grief very well. This book is written in a poetic form, kind of like Ellen Hopkins, but it is not poetry. So it was kind of an odd mix. It is a very easy story to read because the pages turn very quickly but I think that quickness almost hindered my ability to delve into Annaleah's emotions closely enough.

There are other issues at stake with Annaleah that are discovered as the story continues. By book's end, I feel like several of those issues were still left hanging. While I didn't need a little bow to tie it all up, I needed some sense that Annaleah was making headway with her issues, besides the grief, and I did not get that feeling at all. In particular, the peculiar relationship she has with her mother was just not explored as fully as I would have liked. There were hints of where the author seemed to want to take that part of the story but in the end, those hints never went anywhere.

This book will do best with teens who have experienced a deep well of emotional grief themselves, whether that is with the death of a boyfriend or just the death of a close loved one, friend or family. It's not the freshest take on grief books for teens but it lends itself very well to reluctant readers because it goes fast and there are topics teens will relate well to: alienation, not understanding the process of grief, what to do about those emotions.

If anything, this book has me really curious about Samantha Schutz's memoir, I Don't Want to Be Crazy. I like her voice and her style enough to want to see what she has to say about her own experiences.

Other reviews:
Simply Nerdy reviews You Are Not Here
Reading Rants reviews You Are Not Here
Library Lounge Lizard reviews You Are Not Here

ARC received from Amazon Vine.


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