February 18, 2014
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Laura Wiess captures the visceral emotion of a girl’s journey from innocence to devastating loss and, ultimately, to a strange and unexpected kind of understanding—in this beautiful and painfully honest new novel.
Are there any answers when someone you love makes a tragic choice?
Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.
If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother — and herself — from the endless replay of heartache and grief.
Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?
It is great that Me Since You really is a novel of Before and After; readers are not immediately thrown into the maelstrom. When we meet Rowan, she really is a normal sixteen-year-old girl, living her normal life. The introduction to Rowan, her friends, and her family provides a sort of base line, what 'normal' is that make the After of the novel that much better.
While the effect on Rowan and her life would have been easy to see if that novel had started there, it's the contrast to her earlier life that leads to such an emotional impact. Rowan truly was just like anyone else before tragedy struck her life. She was you, she was me. When Rowan's life does fall apart, readers will feel for Rowan - and feel her pain - that much more.
The way Rowan's entire life is part of the story - her friends, her parents, grandparents, school, job - allows us to see how fully grief can impact a person. It's not just how it changes her relationships with her friends, at school. Rowan's whole life has been dramatically altered and Me Since You shows that.
It makes the story that much better, that much harder to read.
Eli's inclusion is really brilliant. He has his own pain, his own losses. He is not that guy that wants to save Rowan from her heartache, to make it all better. One who doesn't understand what she's experiencing. Instead, he does understand and knows her can't make simply make it better, take it away.
Yet, one of my favorite things about Rowan and Eli is that while it was a horrible event that started things for them, it was not all they had. It's something that pulled them together, but you get the feeling it won't be what keeps them together. There really is something between them beyond that.
Me Since You had some of the most - if not the most - honest discussion of suicide, of grief and the outsider's reaction to both. While we see Rowan and those around her dealing with what's happened, Wiess includes very frank statements, through the characters' dialogue as well as what they learn. It's all a part of the story, though; it never feels put there for education or as a PSA. Rowan's father's job as a police officer has given him some insight into depression and suicide. His sharing that with Rowan helps her, but also gives readers the knowledge.
I really applaud Laura Wiess for not only how honest she was about how depression and suicide can change a person's entire life, a family's life but how well it was all done.
While I don't know who has been in Rowan's exact situation, latter parts of the book, especially, caused me to really think about someone who a family friend, a family in a similar situation. I felt I more understood some wondering they had -- they still have.
Me Since You is a very powerful, as well as painful and poignant novel, I highly, highly recommend it.
(And I also have a bit of a soft spot for any book that has a German Shepherd as a good dog, so that didn't hurt, at all.)
Other books you may also enjoy: A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler and Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my egalley to review