By Ellen Hopkins
Expected publication August 26, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Matthew doesn't have much to believe in - not since his younger brother's suicide. His family is falling apart, his friends were not who he thought they were, and he certainly can't believe in a God that would take the life of someone he loved so much. Not even his beloved and devout girlfriend can change his mind about that. Can anything?
I'm always game for a new Ellen Hopkins book, so I eagerly downloaded this one when I spotted it available. However, I'm beginning to think I'm a little tired of the formula in her books. Her books tend to be one horrible thing after the other - sometimes to the point where I have a hard time believing this much bad stuff could happen to one teenager (though, of course, I know anything is possible). This book felt like a waiting game - I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next horrible thing. In this one, the foreshadowing felt extremely heavy-handed - I could see how it all was going to play out very early on.
Additionally, I had a really hard time with Matthew as a character. I tend to like the Hopkins novels with multiple narrators more than those with single narrators - the kinds of characters that Hopkins often writes can be hard to handle for long periods of time (and her books always clock in over 500 pages). What made this even more difficult for me is that I felt like I should have been able to relate to Matthew much more than I did - after all, I know what it's like to lose a sibling, and I'm constantly seeking out teen novels that deal with this topic well. I can certainly understand a lot of what Matthew feels, but I guess what I had a harder time with was the way he acted. When you're grieving, it's extremely easy to feel that no one can possibly relate to you, that no one feels the same grief you're feeling, even that this loss belongs to you alone - and I think this is particularly true of young people who lose a sibling. I felt some of that - I knew my parents' loss was not the same as my own loss. However, I still recognized that they HAD lost, and acted accordingly; Matthew doesn't. He has his reasons for it, at least regarding his father, but I still just couldn't relate to his actions.
Also, the big accident mentioned in the blurb? It doesn't happen until, literally, about 15 pages from the end of the book. Publishers: THIS IS A REALLY FRUSTRATING THING. STOP DOING IT!
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.