[description from goodreads]
Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends didn’t know she had a crush on him. And they don’t know she was the last person with him before he committed suicide. But Frenchie’s biggest concern is how she blindly helped him die that night.
Frenchie’s already insane obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.
It was the cover Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia that struck me first-- a young adult cover without a picture of someone's face? And one primarily made up of words? That was unique enough to make me pick it from my pile; I didn't even need the summary (that, and the title does a pretty decent job of summing it up already). Luckily, the uniqueness of the cover extends to the book as well.
The premise of Frenchie Garcia does not sound the most original (and it isn't) but there are so many elements that make the book a huge breath of fresh air, namely Frenchie herself. She is out of high school with no plans for college (she didn't get in), doesn't care that her girl best friend gets more guys than she does, gets mad at her best guy friend for ditching her for his girlfriend but not because she's in love with him, and a number of other common protagonist characteristics that are made entirely not annoying because her comfort with herself. She does acknowledge that she likes unconventional things, and that she feels awkward most of the time, but she never really compares herself to other characters. It's such a refreshing thing, since without any comparisons, her friendships and problems seem a bit purer, if that makes any sense; because comparisons aren't an issue, she gets more detailed about why her and her friends are actually having trouble, making their problems (and relationships) seem much more realistic and emotional.
Another thing I like about this book is that Frenchie is sad about Andy's death, but most of her grief is showcased by her actions rather than her words. She could have waxed poetic about how sad she was, and maybe that would have made her grief a bit more palpable, but it was following the last night she saw Andy that made her sadness real. Although it takes a while for the book to describe what happened, when it finally does, it's the adventure Andy wanted. It's heartbreaking to read the events of that night knowing what happens after, especially since the chapters alternate between the past and present. It's a bit confusing and strangely paced that way, but I loved directly seeing the ways that Frenchie was affected, especially when things start getting better.
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is not the depressing, stereotypical "grief" book it so easily could have been; instead, it and its normal main character, quirky affinity for cemeteries and Dickinson aside, are a solid, refreshing, realistic tale of growth rather than cliche teenage angst.
Book details: Running Press Kids/Paperback/$9.95
Source: sent by publisher for review