The Compulsive Reader: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Cass has always felt as if her only friend is outgoing, exuberant Julia, and that everyone else she and Julia hang out with only tolerate her because she’s Julia's friend. So when Julia dies in a car accident in the spring, Cass is detached and lost. She can't seem to bring herself to help Julia's other friends to put on the production of the musical Julia had written before her death, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad, especially when they cast Heather, the girl that bullied Cass all throughout middle school, as the lead--Julia's part. So instead, Cass does what she and Julia had originally planned to do that summer, and takes off for California on her bicycle. But it turns out that she'll need something a little faster than a bike to outrun her problems.

Told in alternating viewpoints titles 'Then' and 'Now', referring to the beginning of the summer when Cass is on her trip and the last part when she is at home, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend is certainly unique--from its halting title to the cast of lively and eccentric characters and the ninja-themed musical they put on (complete with plenty of fake blood and weapons). It is quite entertaining to follow the characters as they passionately put on the musical in memory of Julia, and have many laughs and mishaps along the way, which helps keep Horner's novel from being completely grim and sheds some much-needed comic relief on everyone’s grief and the subject of Julia’s death.

However, it is heart-wrenching as Cass attempts to define herself and find her place without Julia through her stumbling, imperfect actions--like heading out on a cross-country bike trip, a daring (and a bit dangerous) element to the plot that makes it stand out. It is very well written, especially when it comes to Cass's motivations and feelings as she travels alone and reminisces about her life before Julia died. At times though, Cass's feelings are quite jumbled and dizzying, especially when she is back at home, helping to put on the musical, and trying to decide where she stands with Heather and her sexuality.

The ending, while not a perfectly satisfying let's-all-be-good-friends-finale, is thoughtful and appropriate, and leaves Cass with a lot of newly gained perspective she didn't have at the start of the book. Though there isn't a clear-cut resolution, there is hope that Cass has finally achieved some much needed confidence and closure, which will leave many readers content with both tears and laughter. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend is poignant and funny and unconventional and will make your heart swell.

Cover Comments: I love the motel scene and the way the title is all written on the signs. The little details are what make this cover so neat, and I like how it looks clean and not cluttered. It's a bright cover with a slightly grim title that gives you a taste of what this book is about.

ARC received from publisher.


Krista/Tower of Books said...

I've been interested in reading this book since I first saw the cover. I'm glad it did not disappoint!

Jane said...

Sounds like a good book to look into. I like your thoughts and insight... it definitely seems like a book I'd enjoy.