Tomorrow we’ll be spotlighting ALL UNQUIET THINGS, an intense, heartbreaking YA murder-mystery by Anna Jarzab. The victim? Carly, a bright, beautiful girl who spirals out of control and winds up brutally murdered. The sleuths? Neily, Carly’s ex-boyfriend, and Audrey, Carly's cousin—and the daughter of the man convicted of her murder. They’re determined to find out who really killed their friend.
Death and loss is a theme in YA lit-- as teens, we all feel it to one extent or another. That’s one of the weirdest parts of death to me. We all grieve, but society tells us how much is acceptable, depending on certain conditions. In ALL UNQUIET THINGS, Neily is “allowed” a long mourning period because everyone knows he’s always thought of Carly as his soul mate. Audrey? So what if she was family, and Carly’s best friend at the time of her death? Her dad killed Carly—Audrey doesn’t get to feel bad.
I love the way my friend and fellow author Jean Reagan put it: “We seem to assign acceptable degrees of grief based on proximity to the loved one… Grief shouldn’t be a competition between severities of loss or proximity to loss, but rather a chance to connect with others and heal together.”
As a teenager, I moved to a new city. It was only a half-hour’s drive from where I’d lived before, but it might as well have been on a different planet. The local high school was cliquish to an extreme I thought only existed in movies.
The summer before I moved in, a guy my age died on a Boy Scout hiking trip. As I tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to make friends, I’d meet people who had known and loved him. In a world with such strict social boundaries, I was amazed by their diversity—Bad Boys, Good Girls, and everyone in-between. Which ones were his bffs and which were only acquaintances? I’d never know. That’s when it hit me: it didn’t matter. Everyone was allowed to hurt. The idea inspired my YA novel THE WAY HE LIVED (Flux, 2008).
Other contemporary YAs I love that give a twist to dealing with grief: WHAT HAPPENS HERE, by Tara Alterbrando (MTV Books, 2008), IF I STAY, by Gayle Forman (Dutton, 2009), TWENTY BOY SUMMER, by our own Contemp Sarah Ockler (Little, Brown, 2009)…there are too many to name.
What are your favorites?