by Jandy Nelson
Lennie Walker’s older sister dies practicing her lines to Romeo and Juliet, and Lennie doesn’t know how to function without her.
While this could easily be a melodramatic book, Lennie’s journey through grief, romance, and ultimately finding herself is both charming and heartbreaking. She is a poet and is supported by a quirky cast of characters, including a grandmother who grows roses seemingly from Eden and a giant uncle called “Big.” Her best friend swears by shouting the names of random animals and Lennie finds herself needing to choose between two radically different boys; one, her sister’s boyfriend, who understands her consuming grief, and one, the new musical prodigy, who pulls her out of it.
I loved Lennie’s (named after John Lennon) story. I loved how she learns to see herself as the star of her own story instead of her sister’s shadow, and I loved her poetry. This story seems true to the actuality of grief, how it can be gut-wrenchingly sad and heartbreaking and at the same time how you keep living through it anyway.