It’s the end of February and despite the hopefulness of the beginning of March (for those who get excited about the arrival of spring), it’s chilly and snowing this morning. Unlike most people, I love the winter and am the opposite of excited about the arrival of spring. Oh well, at least I’ve got a steaming cup of chai, a delicious Date Bar and a freshly made banana muffin to keep my spirits up this morning as I tell you about a book that is anything but hopeful.
I read a book that I thought I heard about because it was on a “banned or challenged books” list that came my way recently, but now I can’t find that list. Anyway, I decided to read Undone by Cat Clarke because I thought it had been banned or challenged somewhere for some reason and of course last week was Freedom to Read Week. I was expecting a teen book that dealt with LGBTQ+ themes, possibly told in a sarcastic or bitter tone, but was not prepared for such a heart-wrenching story. Fringe high school student Jem is in love with her best friend Kai, who is gay. She’s come to terms with that, though, knowing she can be happy in life as long as he is always in it. When Kai is outed online, he is unable to deal with it and commits suicide, and Jem's life comes crashing down. She decides to follow suit, but then Kai’s snobby, moody younger sister, Louise, brings a package of letters to her, twelve of them from Kai, to be read one each month. The first few letters get Jem through the worst of her initial grief, and she feels a connection with her best friend all over again. But she decides to do what Kai has asked her not to do, find out who posted the video and seek revenge. Jem formulates an elaborate plan to infiltrate a group of the most popular kids and give them a taste of their own medicine. But Jem’s experiences are nothing like what she expected, and she struggles to stay with the original plan. Through Kai’s letters, interspersed with the rest of the story, we the readers are taken through Jem’s experiences and emotions as she tries to cope with her grief in the year following his death, leading to an incredibly emotional, satisfying and heartfelt conclusion. This was an absolutely riveting book that I can believe was banned or challenged somewhere for content and language, but the voice sounded so authentic that to change a single word would have changed the whole story, and Jem’s character in particular. I don’t know who I would recommend this to, as the themes were quite dark, but if you can manage to read depressing teen books, then this would be a good one for you. It reminded me a bit of Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, so if you are a fan of that book, you would probably enjoy this one (although “enjoy” seems like the wrong word to use).
On a more uplifting note, the sun seems to be coming out, and this is all I’ve got for you today. So get outside and enjoy the sun and snow, and remember to keep reading!
Bye for now... Julie