I stumbled across this book in mint condition for 3 dollars in a second-hand shop, and after the devastation of The Serpent King, decided I could return for another round of emotional wrangling. I was not disappointed.
This book centres around a difficult question. Carver was texting his friends, asking them where they were and to text back. Their car crashes and all three die, leaving him devastated… but also wondering if he is to blame.
To be honest, I finished this about 2 and a half weeks ago, *edit* I finished the review another two weeks later, and will probably post it after that*so I’m more going to discuss it than dissect it.
This book could have been cliched and trite. It could have had a sexy yet forbidden romance, it could have sounded unrealistic and ridiculous, but it wasn’t. This was all because of the writing. Jeff Zentner balanced amazing dialogue (you now when it doesn’t say who’s saying what yet each phrase just matches a character and it’s snappy and easy to follow and realistic?), descriptive yet not tell-y phrases, and lots of flashbacks to geta perfectly balanced exploration of grief. It wasn’t judgemental and didn’t offer answers, but felt like just what you’d think if you were in Carver’s situation.
The story all takes place after the event. It could be weird because the audience doesn’t know what he’s grieving, or it could be confusing with flashbacks that don’t make sense. But this struck a balance between understanding Carver’s present situation and also giving us insight into what he’s lost. I got the sense of his amazing friendships, and yet this book was about him recovering from grief and moving on.
I am lucky to not have lost anyone close to me in my life, but this felt incredibly realistic. Carver was a dynamic character, clearly broken, and the different ways he experienced grief all manifested themselves over the course of the book. I felt like I got a lot of insight into him as a character and how he dealt with grief, the way he healed, the good days and the bad days.
The characterization was really good. The other main character, Eli’s girlfriend (I literally don’t remember her name oh no I think it started with J?? Maybe Jasmine) was AMAZING. She’s also experiencing grief, although she didn’t know Eli that long. So she’s in this awkward place where she’s obviously sad, but doesn’t know how to leave the ‘dead boy’s girlfriend’ label behind, even though for all anyone knows they may not have been together in a few months. The complexities of that situation was really well captured.
Altogether, the morality of the situation—who’s to blame for the crash? How do the ones left behind cope?—was sensitively and creatively explored, and I found the entire book very compelling in it’s complexity. It’s been too long since I read it for me to think about how many stars I’d give each part of the book, but altogether I’d give it four stars.
Notice the link with this weeks discussion? What do you think of this situation? Have you read anything by Jeff Zentner?