My Goodreads rating: 5 stars.
A beautiful debut novel of love and loss.
Anyone who has lost someone can relate to Lennie – and even if you haven’t, Jandy Nelson makes it so clear how truly lost Lennie feels that she is completely relatable.
This book is not really a romance. I mean, it is, but it’s also so much more. It’s about Lennie and Gram and Big coming to terms with Bailey being gone and learning to live without her. It’s about learning to love again – and about first love, and first heartbreak. It’s about secrets, and honesty, and deception. And the whole book is pulled off so well it’s not depressing, despite how it sounds. The prose is interspersed with beautiful poems Lennie has written and dropped around town (captioned with things like “found on a bit of notepaper under the big willow“, which give you another little look into Lennie’s mind.
Lennie is so relatable because she’s so real. She feels. She hurts, she loves, she makes mistakes. There are moments where you want to facepalm so hard and I literally found myself whispering, “Lennie what are you doing?!” more than once. And the other characters are just as well rounded. You can see Gram struggling to understand Lennie’s grief when she can barely understand her own, and Big turning to his pyramids for solace because they might give him answers. I could even see and understand Toby’s motivations. You could say his character is morally a little bit grey but his actions are explained and you can understand that it’s a part of his grieving process. Perhaps not the most intelligent part, but still. Give the kid a break.
Overall, it’s a beautiful book. I didn’t think it would be as good as I’ll Give You the Sun, because this was Jandy Nelson’s debut, but I actually liked it more. If you’re reading this and you haven’t read the book, go read it. If you have read the book, read it again. I know I will.