Thank you to the University of Queensland Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Hannah’s family is broken. Her mum is depressed, her dad injured and her sister? Her sister Katie was killed in the same accident that split the family in little broken parts. Since the accident, once the well-wishers were gone, Hannah has been ignored by everyone, even those who tormented her for years before Katie’s death. The relief at finally being left alone is eating at Hannah as she struggles to remember what happened during the accident. She is struggling by herself, until Josh comes along. Josh sees her as more than just the dead girl’s sister that everyone else tiptoes around. For the first time in years, Hannah may actually have a friend, if only she is willing to open herself up.
After I finished reading this, I took the afternoon to think it over before I even attempted to write this review. It was a fairly quick read for me, taking not even a day, but it filled me with emotion. When I connect with characters, I feel what they feel. So I felt hurt when Hannah was being bullied, I felt her relief at being left alone, her budding happiness at her friendship with Josh. I felt sad, I felt the guilt, and at the end of the book I felt hopeful. I wanted Hannah to in some way be able to deal with this horrible tragedy that happened to her family, and to remember what it felt like to be happy.
The writing itself was beautiful and the story was well paced and well constructed. Zorn creates memorable scenes of the Blue Mountains where Hannah and her family live, of the high school experience that can be both awful and amazing, of a family dealing with grief. It all feels very real, like they could be the family living down the street. Or maybe even your own. Hannah and Katie don’t get on well, and this lurks on Hannah’s memory because she will never have a chance to have a meaningful relationship with her sister. This book conveys to the reader Hannah’s fears and doubts without so many words. As the book progresses we understand more of their relationship through a then and now perspective, discovering the causes of Hannah’s guilt, relief and why she didn’t always like her sister. You can’t choose your family.
But you can choose your friends. Sometimes they choose you. Josh is not so important as a romantic interest, although it felt like a natural progression, but he is so important as a friend. He gives Hannah the confidence to restart her life, as opposed to just going through the motions. He shows her how important a good friend is, in a situation like Hannah’s. He doesn’t let her shake him off, but just gently encourages the friendship and doesn’t let her shy away from him. He makes her confront the things that scare her and their progressing friendship is uplifting and it just made me smile. I could feel that something was changing in Hannah and I was glad she finally had someone who was there for her. Not because they were paid, or because they had to look after her, but because they cared about her. It was important to Hannah’s development past the accident and so wonderful to read.
Such a beautifully written story will find its way into reader’s hearts. There is no reason it should get any less than five stars.
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