Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publishing Date: January 27
Genre: young adult, contemporary, new adult
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
Cody’s sick of the memorial services and candlelight vigils. These people didn’t know Meg, not like she did. They were two peas in a pod, unstoppable together. And now Meg’s gone — Meg, the sparkling girl full of life and energy, the girl who went and drank poison in a hotel room and planned every last detail of her death. Cody agrees to pack up Meg’s stuff at college, and discovers that Meg was hiding more than her death wish. Angry at the secrets and torn up with grief, Cody decides to sift through Meg’s email and internet history, hoping it can clue her in on her best friend’s final months. What she finds is more than she bargained for.
This is not a YA book about suicide. This isn’t even a YA book about healing and forging beautiful friendships. It is a YA (what really needs to be the proper NA) book entirely about grief and coming to terms with difficult situations. Cody does form unlikely friendships and she does, in a way, heal, but she takes you on her journey through grief and all the distraught emotions that come with it.
Cody and Meg’s bond is very clearly a strong one, filled with love and respect and trust. A small, unspoken rift occurred shortly after Meg left for college near Seattle and Cody stayed in their tiny “hick” town. But Cody’s absolutely sure it wouldn’t take a rift in their friendship to force Meg over the edge — she was too full of life. Meg had timed a good-bye email to be sent to her parents and to Cody shortly after she committed suicide, and Cody hopes she can find answers there. Snooping on Meg’s computer started off innocently enough, but when Cody finds a gap in Meg’s sent mail, she knows something was up. Privacy is a luxury not afforded for the dead, and the people Cody meets along the way that help her on her quest teeter between respecting a deceased friend’s privacy and appeasing their desire for relief.
Like If I Stay, I was neither here nor there with the love story. It was something of a third or fourth interwoven plot line, one that still felt genuine but was not the drive. Cody’s determined to understand her friend’s death, struggling to keep a distance from Meg’s housemates and failing, and trying to figure out where she fits into Meg’s family now that their daughter is gone. While the love story bloomed naturally, with the expected difficulties and divided emotions, it’s definitely more of a side-plot. This novel is, first and foremost, about friendship.
Forman managed to tackle yet another tough issue in modern young adult lives with taste and authenticity. Every character the reader happens upon is a genuine human, equally talented and flawed, loving and hateful. Grief is a very powerful emotional process, especially when someone so bright dies so very young. Well done, Forman.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Viking for review!