High school graduation is often a time filled with celebration and excitement. For Jaycee, though, graduation day dredges up feelings of anxiety and depression. Why? Because her older brother, Jake, died on his own graduation day. Jaycee doesn’t know how to handle the fact that she will now, officially, be older than Jake ever was. Though his death came as the result of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, Jaycee finds comfort in emulating his behavior. Instead of seeing Jake’s death as a warning to be more careful, she finds herself repeating his stunts in an attempt to channel his spirit. Jaycee expected to take this journey alone, but she ended up with a motley crew of [former?] friends who also needed to make their peace with Jake’s death. Guided by Jake’s urban exploring journal, Jaycee followed both literally and figuratively in his footsteps and finally discovered that it’s possible to let go of grief without letting go of her loving memories.
I appreciated getting parts of the story directly from the perspectives of different characters, like Jaycee’s childhood BFF Natalie. But, more than that, I enjoyed the different storytelling techniques that were employed — like the pictures of the poems Bishop crafted in his sketches and graffiti or the graphic novel panels that told the story of Mik, who refused to speak aloud but whose actions spoke for him. McCarthy did a fabulous job of showing how the death of a loved one can alternately tear us apart and build us up stronger than before. I recommend this story to readers who enjoyed See You at Harry’s and Before You Go.
I don’t generally read a lot of graphic novels. I used to read some now and again to stay on top of what I needed to order for my collection, but now I just get to read for pleasure. My son is a big fan of both graphic novels and manga, though, so I tend to keep an eye out for recommendations of books he might enjoy. Recently, a colleague recommended this book and I requested it without even reading the description. (She has never failed me before, and I didn’t think she was about to start anytime soon!) When the book came, I saw that the blurb by Raina Telgemeier said the book was “Heartbreaking and hopeful…” I decided to see what about the story might be heartbreaking and whether this story might be too mature. If my son had specifically asked for it, I might have handed it straight over without even noticing, but I figured it warranted a little look if I was giving him a recommendation.
As it turns out, Sunny was sent to spend the summer with her grandfather in Florida because her parents didn’t want her to have to deal with the fallout as they attempted to intervene and get help for her brother’s substance abuse problem. I definitely believe that books are a fantastic way to broach tough subjects, and I think this book did a superb job of letting readers figure things out both gradually and without too many unnecessary details. Though the story didn’t hold back, the storytelling [via words and illustrations] was both subtle and sensitive enough for somewhat younger readers. Though I initially got this book simply because it was another graphic novel from the author of the Babymouse series and came as a recommendation by a trusted colleague, I’m planning to use this book to jump-start [another] candid conversation with my fifth grader about drugs and alcohol.
If you’re looking for a fun and easy read that will have you LOLing all over the place, I highly recommend this book! My husband has been a fan of The Oatmeal for quite some time and always sends me funny comics, so picking up this book was a no-brainer. Need a teaser to whet your appetite? Here you go: