Simply put, this is an absolutely phenomenal book.
Thank you so much to Olivia Horrox and Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings: suicide (shown on-page in graphic detail), bullying, harassment, catfishing
When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?
I very rarely cry in general in my life, but this book brought me damn near close to tears several times throughout the story.
From the author’s note, I immediately knew that this book would not pull its punches. It was instantly heart-wrenching, relevant and required reading. This was my first book of 2020 and boy, was it a good way to start the year. Honestly, this was one of the easiest five star ratings I’ve ever given and it’s already a strong contender for one of my favourite books of the year.
Jawando’s writing is stunning – raw, lyrical and overwhelming emotional. It’s so powerful and beautiful in the way that just captures grief so completely and accurately. Since I read this book back in January, I’ve unfortunately lost a member of my family and I found myself returning to these words again. They seemed to reflect my experience so perfectly and that is something that I cannot praise highly enough. Jawando just seems to understand the complexity, messiness and differing reactions grief brings to people. She is definitely an author to keep your eye on.
The story is told through two distinctive narratives – Nathan and Megan. Here Jawando showed off brilliant character growth, as both characters stumble through the dark fog of grief to try and make sense of a world that no longer has Al in it. They’re flawed, complex characters trying to heal, which is of course a messy path and isn’t complete by the end of the book, but it’s an ongoing process. Both of them struck such a chord with me and have truly heart-breaking moments that punched me in the gut. Yet, this is ultimately a story of hope.
Discovering the truth behind Al’s struggle is horrendous to read and there’s a graphic scene where Nathan discovers his body that destroyed me. What makes it worse is that this is reality for so many people, with bullying still being a huge problem and making many people’s lives living hells. We need to shout about bullying and mental health because it leads to tragic stories like Al’s if we just ignore it.
Truly, this book lives up its name and burns bright with stunning writing and an intensity that means I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
Thank you again to Olivia Horrox and Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.