Tag Archives: death and dying

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley. April 4, 2017. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 243 p. ISBN: 9780399165047.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 800.

Two sisters take off on a wild road trip in this poignant tale for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree

After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family.

Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison’s house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy’s dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy’s ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

A heartrending story of family torn apart and put back together again, Ashes to Asheville is an important, timely tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Smoking; Car theft

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Five years have elapsed since 12-year-old Fella and her teenage sister, Zany, left Asheville, and now they’re headed back, sneaking out late at night with Mama Lacy’s ashes and racing to get there in time for what would have been her fortieth birthday. They left Asheville for West Virginia to be near family as Mama Lacy battled pancreatic cancer, but after Lacy’s death, Fella’s biological grandmother fought for her in court and won, separating her from Zany and Mama Shannon. Now the two girls are essentially on the lam. A chance meet-up with a stranger who steals Lacy’s ashes turns into an unexpected friendship with Adam, whose own father is on his deathbed—dying of cancer, too. There’s so much unspoken between the two sisters, but particularly painful for Zany is the financial ease that Fella lives in with Mrs. Madison, while she and Mama Shannon struggle to get by. Dooley’s portrait of two sisters still struggling with grief and huge life changes makes for a powerful, absorbing read. As their road trip turns treacherous, readers will anxiously turn the pages, hoping for a happy ending. The court battle for Fella’s custody shows the extent to which state battles over same-sex marriage create fissures in families and have an enduring and tragic impact on the lives of young people. A tender, touching, and timely read.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light. Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sarah Dooley is the critically acclaimed author of Free Verse. She has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two additional novels for middle-grade readers, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lived Here. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

Her website is www.dooleynotedbooks.com.

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Ashes to Asheville on Amazon

Ashes to Asheville on Goodreads

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Ashes to Asheville Publisher Page

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. January17, 2017. Soho Teen, 304 p. ISBN: 9781616956929.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 820.

When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Discussion of abortion

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 3))
Grades 9-12. After Griffin and Theo break up, after Theo moves to California for college, and even after Theo finds a new boyfriend in Jackson, Griffin continues to believe that they’ll end up together. Then Theo drowns, and all that’s left for Griffin is their fugitive history together. Griffin’s affecting account of that history is told partly in flashbacks that are simultaneously elegiac and melancholy. The present, meanwhile, finds him bereft, grieving but discovering, perhaps, a weird sort of comfort in continuing to speak to Theo, reliving their past while sharing what is happening in the here and now. But will Griffin, who is so stuck in the past, find a future? Silvera’s splendid sophomore novel is filled with tantalizing questions about lies and honesty, love and loss, and past and present, with answers gradually metered out through Griffin’s growth as well as that of the other characters populating this beautifully realized, character-driven work of literary fiction. Silvera leaves his readers enriched and challenged, inviting them to join Griffin in questioning the meaning of life and love. In those questions, they will find an unsparing honesty that brings closure to the novel and to Griffin’s quest to let go of the past and embrace the future.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old Griffin loses Theo, his best friend and first love, twice: first when the young men break up, and again, as the book opens, when Theo drowns. Dual timelines carry readers simultaneously through Griffin and Theo’s sweet, finely drawn romance (and its inevitable dissolution) and Griffin’s heartbreaking journey through the grieving process, marked by disorientation, resentment, and an unlikely (and unhealthy) relationship with Theo’s hated subsequent boyfriend, Jackson. Both narratives are informed by Griffin’s struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, which is neither minimized nor sensationalized but chronicled matter-of-factly as part of his life. Silvera’s prose is raw and lyrical, a good fit for Griffin’s intensity, and the minutiae of both romance and grief are closely observed and deeply felt. The mysteries of what lies in between the two timelines–for instance, how Griffin became estranged from another friend–keep the pace moving. Griffin and Theo’s breakup is messy, realistic, and painful, overshadowed but not subsumed by the subsequent pain of Theo’s death, and readers will identify with Griffin’s confusion and denial in response to both. Griffin himself is an indelible character who will linger in readers’ sympathies after the last page is turned. claire e. gross

About the Author

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

Teacher Resources

History Is All You Left Me Reading Guide

Around the Web

History Is All You Left Me on Amazon

History Is All You Left Me on Goodreads

History Is All You Left Me on JLG

History Is All You Left Me Publisher Page

Summerlost by Ally Condie

Summerlost by Ally Condie. March 29, 2016. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9780399187193.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6; Lexile: 600.

It’s the first real summer since the devastating accident that killed Cedar’s father and younger brother, Ben. But now Cedar and what’s left of her family are returning to the town of Iron Creek for the summer. They’re just settling into their new house when a boy named Leo, dressed in costume, rides by on his bike. Intrigued, Cedar follows him to the renowned Summerlost theatre festival. Soon, she not only has a new friend in Leo and a job working concessions at the festival, she finds herself surrounded by mystery. The mystery of the tragic, too-short life of the Hollywood actress who haunts the halls of Summerlost. And the mystery of the strange gifts that keep appearing for Cedar.

Infused with emotion and rich with understanding, Summerlost is the touching middle grade debut from Ally Condie, the international bestselling author of the Matched series, that highlights the strength of family and personal resilience in the face of tragedy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 8))
Grades 4-7. Condie makes her middle-grade debut with a tender novel about a family coming to terms with a personal tragedy. The summer after Cedar loses her father and brother Ben in a car accident, her mother moves their family, now just three of them, to Iron Creek, Utah, home to the Summerlost Shakespeare Festival. Cedar finds an unexpected friend in Leo, a theater nerd obsessed with Lisette Chamberlain, a famous actress who made her start at Summerlost before dying young. In their time off work at Summerlost, Leo and Cedar run unauthorized Lisette Chamberlain tours while trying to piece together what really happened to her. The mystery of Lisette plays second fiddle to the novel’s centerpiece: the special friendship between Cedar and Leo, which helps Cedar deal with her grief. An aching sense of loss pervades the story, focusing more on Ben than on Cedar’s dad. Though it is never named in the story, readers will put together that Ben was on the autism spectrum. A nuanced portrait of grief deeply grounded in the middle-school mind-set.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2016)
A local theater festival sets the stage for YA author Condie’s (Matched and sequels) first middle-grade novel. Twelve-year-old Cedar Lee, her little brother Miles, and their mother settle into their new summer home in Iron Creek, “a small town in a high desert.” Cedar’s father and other brother, Ben, were killed in a car accident the previous summer, leaving the Lee family shaken. The strain of putting on a brave face leads Cedar to seek out distraction at Iron Creek’s theater festival; there she befriends the enthusiastic Leo, who gets her a festival job and introduces her to the legends surrounding Lisette Chamberlain, a famous local actress who died under mysterious circumstances. The friends begin giving unofficial tours about Lisette’s life — Leo looking to fund a trip to England, Cedar looking for relief from her family’s stress and from thinking about the objects showing up on her windowsill, which she thinks Ben’s ghost could be leaving. While Cedar and Leo’s investigation into Lisette’s past is compelling enough, the book’s strongest impact comes from the characters’ personal struggles: Leo has trouble fitting in with his family, and Cedar’s guilt about her impatience with Ben, who was developmentally disabled, casts another shadow over her grief. Condie focuses on the miscommunications that trouble all relationships, with honest interactions that keep the story feeling authentic right up to the thoughtful conclusion. sarah berman

About the Author

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.

Her website is www.allysoncondie.com.

 

Around the Web

Summerlost on Amazon

Summerlost on Goodreads

Summerlost on JLG

Summerlost Publisher Page

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach. February 23, 2016. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781481418805.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 850.

“I’ve got some questions for you. Was this story written about me?”

I shrugged.

“Yes or no?”

I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty. It brought a bloom to her pale cheeks and made sharp shelves of her cheekbones.

“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.

I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote I can’t on my palm.

Then, in tiny letters below it, I finished the thought: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Underage drinking

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. Best-selling author Wallach’s sophomore effort puts an atypical twist on the standard boy-meets-girl equation. Skipping school on Halloween, mute high-school senior Parker Santé meets silver-haired Zelda Toth at the luxurious Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Zelda totes a stack of $100 bills, claims to be immortal, and plans to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. The two make a deal: she’ll spend her money on Parker as long as he promises to apply to and attend college. What follows is an adventurous, epiphany-filled three days that test their handshake agreement. Although Wallach’s zippy writing is terrifically clever, “dumb, not stupid” Parker’s musings do not always cohere completely into a story. Zelda’s manic-pixie-dream-girl qualities become especially exaggerated by Parker’s seeming ease with her eventual decision. Still, Wallach offers much for teen readers to ponder: immortality, the future, how we make peace with the death of loved ones, and the choices we make with the time we have on this earth.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2016)
Two introspective teens — one silent and one possibly immortal — share a life- changing weekend in this contemporary, fantastical romance. Parker Sante, seventeen, has psychogenic aphonia; he stopped talking after his father died five years ago. He resists treatment and communicates via notebook, deliberately distancing himself from his peers and his future. Then he meets Zelda — a mysterious, silver-haired girl who says she’s lived for centuries. She’s on her way to finally end it all by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, but first she invites Parker to help spend her life savings; smitten, he accepts. Parker recounts their adventures with a whip-smart, sardonic narrative voice in this fast-paced romp around an atmospheric San Francisco, interspersed with Parker’s fantasy short stories and sustained by a steady course of philosophic (and flirtatious) banter. While Parker tries to unravel the truth about Zelda’s wild claim, Zelda is on a mission to help Parker shed his apathy so he can enjoy the pleasures life has to offer. A romantic wish-fulfillment fantasy? Absolutely, but the pair’s ample chemistry and illuminating conversations about what makes life worth living make both their fast-burning romance and Parker’s eventual transformation feel organic and well earned. jessica tackett macdonald

About the Author

Tommy Wallach is a novelist, screenwriter, and musician from Seattle, WA. He currently lives in Brooklyn, like everybody else. His first novel, “We All Looked Up,” is a NYTimes bestseller, the rights for which have sold in over a dozen countries. His second novel is “Thanks for the Trouble,” which Tommy adapted for film under the aegis of Anonymous Content (Spotlight, Revenant, Mr. Robot).

Tommy is also a musician, and has recorded with Decca Records and performed at the Guggenheim Museum. He released a full-length companion album of original songs to go with his first novel, which is available wherever fine music is sold (i.e. the internet).

His website is www.tommywallach.com.

Around the Web

Thanks for the Trouble on Amazon

Thanks for the Trouble on JLG

Thanks for the Trouble on Goodreads