by Jandy Nelson
performed by Julia Whelan
Published 2009 by Brilliance Audio
7 hours, 15 minutes. Unabridged.
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life--and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, the can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
It's amazing how tragedy always makes for a good book. I guess those of us who spend half our lives with our nose in a book want to feel something when we read. I spent a long time reading nothing but paranormal fiction, usually of the teen variety. This year has been one of discovery for me, as far as books go. I've really discovered my favorite genre, my favorite writing style, and my favorite kind of characters. I'm beginning to understand why my mother won't read a book if she doesn't grab her right from the start. There's nothing like that feeling of knowing you've found something really great before you've even finished the first chapter. This is one of those books for me. I want to read it all over again.
Lennie is another one of those characters I can relate to. It's actually kind of freaky this time. Here's a list of things we have in common: our favorite book is Wuthering Heights, we both played clarinet in high school (though it sounds like she's a lot better than I was), we're both introverts who have trouble realizing our potential, we're both pros at screwing things up. I don't think I've related to character this much... well, ever. She feels so real to me it's freaky. Toby was the same way, very real and melancholy. I can understand how their combined pain caused them to do the things they did. Joe felt a little more like a dream, but maybe it's because he felt like a dream to her. It didn't make me love his character any less, and I did find some realistic tendencies in him toward the end. He can be very stubborn. He and Lennie will make you want to fall in love, for the first time or all over again.
When I'm reading a book I love with character I love, I feel very unsettled when things are going wrong. Though I'm incredibly uncomfortable with the events in the book, I take the feeling as a good sign. It means I care. The author has written characters I can care about. I want the best for them and I squirm with every mistake they make. I may spend a good chunk of the book worrying, but it's that much better if or when things are resolved.
Nelson is great. She has a quirky sense of humor that I ate up. I loved Gram and Big. They were hilarious, but not simple. It's just good character writing when someone can write two quirky comic relief character, but still give them just as much depth as all the others. She gives this book the perfect pace and never overwhelms the reader with the shifts from sad to happy or vice versa. I also really enjoyed Julia Whelan's narration. She was very expressive. I really believed I was listening to Lennie speaking, not someone reading a book. It's an excellent audio book.
Source: Emmet O'Neal Public Library. Mountain Brook, AL.
Author's website: http://www.jandynelson.com/
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