This has to be a category of its own, because it has been the stand out ‘issue’ of not only 2016, but the year before as well. These three books dealt with the loss of a loved one in the most authentic ways, taking readers on heart-breaking journeys of anger and hurt through to poignant moments of healing and acceptance of loss. Other stand-out books in this category are Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle and Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer.
The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood (May 2016)
This is quirky and sharp. Main character Gottie has already lost her mother, and now her beloved grandfather, Grey is gone too. The exploration of grief is played out in Gottie’s physics-obsessed mind, and she starts to believe she is time travelling, visiting crucial moments in her past. Gottie is socially awkward and reclusive. The return of the boy who used to be her best friend, ties her in more knots. Her portrayal is in part cringe-worthy and part hilarious. She’s a one of a kind. Landscape and the inclusion of German words are significant, and reflects Gottie’s confusion and loss permeating the pages.
One would think the deep by Claire Zorn (June 2016)
One of my top five reads of the year, mostly because it produced visceral reactions. Physical pain when Sam witnesses his mum’s collapse and death, genuine fear when he flies into violent rages, deep concern when he loses his way and seems to give up on his future, then real hope when his family starts talking to each other, and finally satisfaction when he wants to rebuilds. It’s a journey of despair and darkness through which Sam emerges stronger and lighter. I walked every step with him. And every step hurt. It’s another book I reviewed at Children’s Books Daily.
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (October 2016)
While this book offers much that is troupe-y and familiar, I did find its extraordinary depiction of Grace fascinating. She’s meant to be a learning lesson for Henry, the MC, and we only see her through Henry’s eyes, biased and in love with the idea of her instead of the real her. Yet by the end, Grace has developed into a complex and vivid creature who ultimately steps beyond the confines of the pages to become something more. Her loss and grief spill over everything, and it’s messy, confronting and painful. Yes, it’s been done before, but I do love a novel with this much snark and bite.
On Wednesday I talk about my favourite genre–the colours of the rainbow. LGBTQIA.