You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz
Publisher: Push | 292 pages | Oct. 1, 2010 | Buy it
A startling novel about love and grief from the author of the acclaimed memoir I Don’t Want to Be Crazy.
Annaleah and Brian shared something special – Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn’t need anyone else. It didn’t matter that their relationship was
secret. All that mattered was what they had with each other.
And then, out of nowhere, Brian dies. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely.
How can you recover from a loss that no one will let you have?
How do you get over the loss of someone you love when no one knows you love them?
That’s the struggle for Annaleah, who’s secret boyfriend, Brian, suddenly dies at the age of 17. Struggling to come to terms with the loss of a relationship she can’t even define, she pulls away from her friends and mother, none of whom knew Brian. While the people around her go about their lives, Annaleah spends her days perched on the edge of Brian’s life.
Annaleah’s loneliness and sorrow are tangible. She avoids her friends’ calls, lies in bed all day, and talks to Brian’s grave, looking for signs of him in the world around her. All actions I can easily see myself, and especially 17 year old me, doing. However flawed their relationship, he was her first love and she is heartbroken.
Throughout the book, Annaleah escapes the pain of losing Brian and the increasingly apparent dysfunction of their relationship through idealized scenarios with her father, who left when she was a baby. The poignancy of these “memories” brings home just how keenly she feels her father’s absence. I kept wishing she would reach out to her mom, but like every teenager before her, she felt as though her mother couldn’t possibly understand what was happening to her.
I have only read one other novel in verse and while that was a very good experience for me, I was reserved in my expectations for this book. I don’t know why I thought it would be difficult to impart the emotion and depth of a novel in verse format, but I did. And I was completely wrong. Not only is this book incredibly heart-rending, but the depth of character development and world building is such that I can’t believe it was possible in such a quick read. I highly recommend this book. –Cara