By Jessica Warman
Expected publication August 2, 2011 by Walker & Company
So, the girl who handed this to me at ALA said I had to have it because it was going to be the next big thing. After finishing it, I don't really agree.
First, this book was not what I expected. I thought this was going to be a murder mystery story. There was no indication on the back cover blurb of the ARC that this was narrated by the dead girl (though I see the Goodreads summary gives that information). So I guess this is supposed to fall in the same vein as Before I Fall, If I Stay, Elsewhere, and The Lovely Bones, etc. Unfortunately for me, this doesn't hold up against the two of those titles I've read. This book is just not that interesting. There is no creation of another world, as in The Lovely Bones, and as Liz revisits the place she grew up and her childhood memories, there is a severe lack of description. This book is overflowing with dialogue, and pretty much the only good thing about that is that it makes the book move relatively quickly. Additionally, I found myself supremely annoyed every time Liz visits one of her memories because she says the same damn thing every time - i.e. "I'm such-and-such an age. I can tell because of blah blah blah." Learn some new way to say it!
I think we are supposed to feel bad for Liz, especially as the mystery surrounding her death is unraveled (I'll talk about the "mystery" in a little bit) but I found myself just not caring. She's a pretty boring and self-absorbed character. Her interactions with Alex, the poor kid in town who died about a year earlier, are painful and terrible to suffer through. They are clearly meant to antagonize each other and at the same time grow and learn from each other. But it feels forced and phony.
In terms of the "mystery" surrounding both Alex and Liz's deaths, I had it figured out about 175 pages before the end of the novel, which made reading the rest of it a bit tedious. I'll admit I didn't have every single detail figured out, but I had the two biggest parts of the mystery solved. And that's saying something, because I am really terrible at figuring out mysteries ahead of time. So for me, the whole intrigue of the novel failed.
Despite all the aspects of this novel that let me down, I don't think it's a bad book. It just could have been a lot better. In the end, it's a pretty compelling read (even though I had the mysteries figured out, I kept reading) with the dark overtone that's very popular these days. I think this book will do well.
Thanks to the publisher for an advanced reader's copy.