Book Review - You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz

November 8, 2010

You Are Not Here 
by Samantha Schutz
October 2010
Push, Scholastic Press
Goodreads Summary: Annaleah and Brian had something special -- Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn't need anyone else. It didn't matter that it was secret. All that mattered was what they shared.

And then, out of nowhere, Brian is killed in an accident. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living on the outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss no one will let you have?

Ramblings...To be honest I've never been a fan of Nicholas Sparks or the Lurlene McDaniel tearjerkers, and for the most part I know I'm in the minority because I have tons of readers here, even at the middle school who check out those books until they are falling apart. Me? For some reason I just can't help feeling completely manipulated and emotionally assaulted! I have this semi-horrible personality issue where, while reading, watching a movie etc., I automatically put myself in the place of the main character. For example, I refused to read My Sisters Keeper because I knew I'd be emotionally exhausted for days afterward as I relived each moment of pain and suffering. My daughter on the other hand, LIVES for these types of movies...So, one day, we are watching TV together and My Sisters Keeper is on HBO or one of those channels and she starts watching it, I get up to leave and she begs me to stay for some sort of demented mother-daughter bonding moment. I still haven't forgiven her to this day...there was a point in the movie that I cried from there until the very end. I seriously had to put an icepack on my eyeballs so I didn't look like I'd had the crap kicked out of me (when, yes, emotionally I really had been...) My long-suffering point is, if I enjoy a tearjerker of a book, you'll know it was worth it!

Why I like this book...First of all, I really enjoy books written in the form of poetry as a change-up to my regular routine, it's just a nice change. I also know that it will popular amongst the teen reluctant reader crowd because to them, these books aren't as "wordy" and intimidating. I've created a whole section here in my library for them and their circulation rate has tripled! I also enjoyed this book because the plot was pretty original. I've never read a story of a teenage girl who had a "secret" relationship with a boy who ends up dying. How do you grieve when no one really knows you existed? I can't imagine the pain and frustration Annaleah feels as she mourns in silence while inside she screams for assurance and understanding. Her loneliness is palpable. I think the reason this "sad" book worked for me is because there is no tragedy "climax". We learn about Brian's death in the first couple of pages and the rest of the book is about Annaleah working through her grief and loss.

Characters....Annaleah was a bit frustrating at times because she kept dwelling on the same things over and over, but I know that this is a characteristic typical of most teens. I have two teenage girls myself, I have felt like pulling my hair out at times when they wallow in a situation and refuse to move forward. Grief is a process different for everyone and Annaleah struggles at first to move forward. Brian is that boy that a lot of girls like, but who keeps everyone at arms length. I don't think he purposely kept Annaleah a secret, I think he was trying to keep to different worlds from alternate reality, so to speak. Annaleah's best friend Marissa knows about Brian and tells her that he is bad news from the very beginning. This makes it hard for Annaleah to lean on her when she knows Marissa never really liked him anyway. Ethan is a boy Annaleah meets after Brian's death. He tries to get close to her but will her grief and unwillingness to let go of the past get in the way?

Final thoughts...A skillfully written tale of tragic first love with an overall theme that life does go on. I can see this being a huge hit in high school libraries. There are a few sexually themed scenes that prevent me from keeping it here in the middle school but I know the girls here would love it too :) 


~The Book Pixie said...

I've been so anxious to read this one though I had no idea it was written in verse, which I love. It sounds like it is going to be a very heartfelt read and I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for the review! :D


Samantha Schutz said...

Wow! Thank you for that amazing review. Check out the You Are Not Here photo contest Win signed copies of I Don't Want to Be Crazy and You Are Not Here.