A Love Story: Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
When Julia is killed in a car accident, it left a hole in Cass’ life that was impossible to fill. When Julia’s drama friends discover that the secret project that Julia was working on is a musical with ninjas, they decide to perform it as a tribute to her. But Cass doesn’t fit into the drama group without Julia there. Especially not when Heather, a bully from middle school who publicly questioned Cass’ sexuality, is cast as the lead. But Cass feels she must do something to fill that hole in her life Julia left behind, so she sets out on a solo bike trek over the summer from Chicago to California. The book moves from the time following the bike trip when Cass returns to school and her travels. It is about journeys, tributes, friendship, and love. It is a book that fills holes, honors all kinds of love, and celebrates those of us who don’t quite fit in until we find the right people.
This book is not easy. There are no simple solutions to a friend’s death, and Horner honors this friendship with a grand tribute. From the beginning of the book, readers know that Cass does not complete her ride to California, but this makes the book even more powerful. It becomes not about the accomplishment of the goal, but about the journey itself. There are ugly truths in the book that readers are asked to understand and there are beautiful twists and turns along the way. The book is a ride, a journey, a tribute and so it must be difficult and contain things that bring us to another place.
Horner’s writing is constantly showing and not telling. Emotions are told through reactions, allowing them to be complex and much more honest. She has created a heroine in Cass with such heart. She is complicated, fascinating, and marvelous. Horner also excels at backstory without burdening the reader. Cass’ parents are Quakers and that influences her life tremendously. Through the skill of Horner’s writing, that too is told as it comes up, revealing itself and its layers slowly. This is much the same way that Cass’ sexuality is handled, honoring the process that Cass is going through to understand it herself.
Simply a magnificent book, get it on your shelves, into your hands and most of all into the hands of teens. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
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