by Jo Knowles
Review by Mrs. Schauer
Intended Audience: Upper Grades
This book has been in our collection for a while. Emily, of course read it right away, and encouraged me to read it. I, as always, could never seem to find the time to get it read it as well. I have this problem where if I start a book, I can't put it down until I finish it, and nothing else in my life gets done. Even if I had found the time, though, it always seemed to be checked out when I went to look for it. In any case, I finally took this one home last weekend, and read it in two sittings.
This is most definitely a book that is a prime example of why my personal motto as it pertains to a librarian's role in helping make the match between student and book is: "Not every book is right for every person, but for every person exists the perfect book." Not everyone needs to read this book. In fact, some people will strongly dislike it. For some, though, this book could be life changing--for some, this book might really be needed. And that is the exact thing that makes it the perfect book, in my opinion.
This is the story of Leah and Laine. Leah is the beautiful rich popular girl that everyone longs to be. Laine is the quiet wallflower that fades into the background of whatever crowd she's in. That is, until Leah decides, in the fifth grade, to make Laine her official BFF. For a little while, even though she's confused about why she was selected for the prime role as BFF to a goddess, she's grateful to be noticed, and to have friends. She feels incredibly special to be by Leah's side.
LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL opens with the news of Leah's death in a terrible car accident. The rest of the story takes the reader on a journey through the complexities of their years-long friendship. Through her reflections, we are taken into Laine's heart and soul as we travel with her through experiences that played a huge role in shaping the person she has become.
Not all stories are happy idyllic coming of age tales that tie up neatly with a bow in the end. I will say that Laine does find healing in the book, and the reader is left with a sense that she's going to be OK--but there is a lot of pain, loss and confusion along the way.
I applaud authors like Jo Knowles who step out on a limb to write about things that are considered taboo. Life is full of many things--joy, love, loss, pain, sadness, anger, abuse...the list goes on. Libraries need to have books on their shelves for everyone--and sometimes this includes books that might make people uncomfortable. To them, I say: Don't read it. Put it back on the shelf, where someone who really needs the words contained within it can finally find another human being to whom they, maybe for the first time, are able to relate.
For Teachers: Click here for a teacher's guide to go along with the book.