Lacey’s father is killed in an auto accident, leaving her mother and two brothers obviously consumed by grief. Lacey, although she blames herself for the accident, is fine … or so she keeps telling everyone. She is doing well in school, has taken up the household tasks her mother cannot seem to accomplish, and is watching out for her younger brother Tanner, who has virtually withdrawn from life. The kids at school have mostly stopped giving her pitying looks, and even though she’d like for things to return to “before” she recognizes that she must deal with “after.” One thing that helps is a club she starts for other classmates who have lost a parent – a place where they can feel “normal” and know that expressions of “I know how you feel” are genuine and not just a rote response. And the attentions of a new boy in school, handsome and popular, definitely help.
This is a good YA novel that deals with some very real issues. Lacey, her brothers and mother each deal with their grief in different ways – ignoring it, keeping busy with work or school, withdrawing from friends and family, turning to alcohol. Those around them are sometimes puzzled by the reactions to their offers of help and support. Harmel shows how the loss of a parent affects not only the surviving family members, but also those around them – colleagues, teachers, friends, and neighbors. What does a friend do in this kind of situation? Do you reminisce with Lacey about her Dad? Do you pretend everything is fine? Do you avoid mentioning your own family? Do you try to have fun like a “normal” teen? Do you stick by your friend or find new friends who don’t shut you out?
This is a sensitively written story of one family’s journey back to “normal” after suffering a devastating loss. The characters are fully realized, and the situations believable. Definitely recommended for teen readers.