Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
I cannot get this book out of my mind. It has less than 300 pages and it’s easy to read it in one day, but it stays with you for a long time.
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know it yet.”
Lydia comes from a mixed-race family and has two siblings, but she is her parent’s clearly favorite child. Both Marilyn and James see in Lydia the hope of fulfilling dreams they could never see come true for themselves – Marilyn wants her to become the doctor she could never be, and James wants her to be the social and popular kid he was never allowed to be due to his foreign looks.
As the first thing we know about the story is Lydia’s death, there is no actual mystery as to whether she is alive or not, but for a good part of the book you watch her family struggle with not knowing it, and you want to yell: She is dead! Don’t have hopes!
This story is written very beautifully, in a way that it is borderline literary fiction, although contemporary is a better categorization for it. It describes with realistic perfection the heavy weight of expectations from parents, from yourself and of the lies one tells in order not to let down the people you love. This family drama shows how easily a person can misunderstand another, and how much you can end up not knowing about the people who are closest to you. The story goes from present to past and back, slowly knitting together a picture of the small and big events in the characters’ lives that lead to the tragic death of Lydia and so much secret-keeping, resentment and disappointment. The portrait painted feels painfully real and, as I said before, stays in your mind a really long time. Such a beautiful book.
Verdict: I recommend this book highly and cannot praise it enough. I think some of you might not enjoy it if family drama is something you particularly don’t like (some of the people I know dislike the genre strongly), but otherwise I recommend this book to anyone. It also generates lots of discussion, so it’s a good book club material, too.