Sometimes themes and books group together in unexpected ways. They come my way haphazardly or decide to present themselves on certain release dates, and it somehow doesn’t feel casual. Take these three, for instance, and their take on different types of loss:
Things That Grow by Meredith Goldstein
Lori is smart, Jewish and witty. She’s hopelessly in love with Chris, her best friend, and they have been really used to hang out and do stuff together. They had their entire senior year planed: from witting comics, to doing massive amounts of watching Doctor Who, their life seems sorted.
Until Dorothy Parker, Lori’s grandmother, dies unexpectedly. Grandma Sheryl was everything to Lori. She was, in her own way, very funny and witty as well, loving and caring of her two sons; Seth, who is a writer and has a cool life; and Becca, Lori’s mom, who is portrayed here under the unflinching stare of her daughter.
Grandma Sheryl loved gardening and wanted to be cremated; her ashes scattered near things that grow. She had her own gang, a gaggle of gardening youngsters that shared her passion for plants. They want to be a part of this scattering-the-ashes thing, and all seems to be well… that is, until Becca steps in.
This mom, I tell you, is a piece of work. Becca has had many boyfriends, many jobs and many moves. Lori was more than happy to spend time with her grandmother instead, and seems continuously irritated by everything her mother does. That resonated with me, sometimes a person in your life is all about themselves and are constantly trying to to steer things in their direction at all times, I could definitely relate to that.
Now Becca, Lori’s mom, is insisting on moving her away from Boston right before senior year. Lori doesn’t want to, of course. So she insists on honoring her grandmother’s last request before she moves, and the road trip around the most gorgeous gardens around the Boston area begin.
Luckily for her, she has uncle Seth and Chris by her side. But, as you can imagine, nothing will be smooth sailing from then on, because grief and bereavement express themselves in funny ways, and always uncover the truth about families. Saying goodbye is tough, but is a necessary step forward.
Meredith Goldstein is a “From Love Letters” advice columnist and podcast host. This is her second YA Novel. This novel has fairly good bits of humor and snatchable conversations and I really enjoyed the journey.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publish Date: March 09, 2021
BISAC Categories: Coming of Age Romance – Contemporary Social Themes – Death, Grief, Bereavement
An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke
Now, Lori has to deal with moving out, a complicated mother, and a father who was never there. Somehow her character made her seem that she has kept it together very coolly throughout her grief. She is very different form the main character of this book, a boy named Theo Ripley.
Theo has a LOT on his plate. First off, his mother died two year ago. His father is a bit of a wreck. He may seem a bit stable, but in truth, it’s his sister Laura the one who seems to be in charge of keeping everything together.
When, for instance, dear dad decides to take them to Big Bend, the least popular National Park, on vacation; it is Laura who tells him that he must pay for it, since National parks are no longer free. She has obviously done the online research her father hasn’t.
Their father tells them that he is willing to pay for accommodation but, that they will definitely be camping at least one of the days, despite all of the reviews on the internet telling them not to. (Because of the sweltering heat and the risk of bears. And the lack of water, plus the yucky bathrooms…). Their father has the obvious feeling that a good thing can be repeated, and he had a blast there twenty-years ago, whit a friend, when the campsite was free of charge. What could possibly go wrong?
It may seem not fair to take a vacation in such a risky environment as an excuse for another surprise, but that is how parents react sometimes. It turns out Big Bend National Park really was just an excuse, and that the real reason they are all stuck there is dad’s new secret girlfriend.
Theo has his loss so tied up in knots inside of him, the only way he has expressed himself f has been drawing super nerdy comics and showing them off to his friends in school. How can he react before it’s too late? Can he share his feeling whit his dad?
Sometimes crying feels awful. I’ve been there, the pain doesn’t decimate the pressure inside, it just… overflows. But you have to let it all out, because bottling things up doesn’t change the outcome of what your family is now, once one of them is gone forever. And missing them doesn’t mean that we have to forfeit happiness for the future, you can, still, be occasionally and entirely happy.
I like the fact that adults are fallible in this novels, I think YA is changing in some big ways, and the portray of parents and the addressing of grief are some of them.
Clifford Burke grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. He worked as a house painter, a parking lot attendant, and a sign-twirling dancing banana before graduating from the College of William and Mary. He currently teaches English in Austin, Texas. This is his first novel.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publish Date: May 18, 2021
BISAC Categories: Family – Parents Humorous Stories Camping & Outdoor Activities
Violet and the Pie of Life by Debra Green
Meet twelve-year-old Violet. She has two great loves in her life: math and pie.
Her charts and lists are adorable, and the way she thinks her way out of problems reflect all the weird combinations we wanted to try out when we wanted to stop our parents from divorcing.
Its classical daydreaming: chaining events in ways you could sort of control, but with a mathematical twist. She is also preparing for the school play, so that has to be factored in as well.
But the truth is, Mom plus Dad do not equal perfection. Violet thinks that her parents should solve their problems like they would solve a difficult mathematical equation, by applying good old simple math. But, there are no simple equations when it comes to emotions. When her Dad leaves the house, Violet realizes that the odds have started to change.
The mathematical metaphors can extend themselves, somewhat, to all the walks of Violets life: There are friendship variables, unexpected turns, and conversations that sometimes seem as random as numbers popping out of nowhere.
Divorce is a kind of grief; it is the death of the idea we had of our family. Everyone has to deal with the idea of family vs the reality of it at some point in our lives.
Sometimes we face it when a loved one dies, sometimes we face it when there is a separation, or a new birth, anything that disproves our theory and forces us to look at the real persons behind our relationships. It is a constant, growing challenge and you know, there’s a number that does that too, and its embedded in the title of this novel.
The novel includes illustrated charts, graphs, and diagrams throughout, they are loopy and crystal clear, and you love Violet the more for doing them
Hardcover | Pages: 256
Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | USD: $18.99
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Themes: Gratitude, Helpfulness, SLJ DoD Middle Grade, SLJ DoD SEL