Outside first. Just holding this book, you know you have something good. Its dimensions are smaller than most hardcovers. A beautiful kind of small. Not old-book small, but almost.
Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. she has just awoken from a year-long coma, and she’s still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. Her parents show her home movies of her life, her memories, but she has no recollection. Is she really the same girl she sees on the screen? Little by little, Jenna begins to remember. Along with the memories come questions—questions no one wants to answer for her. What really happened after the accident?
The writing was much sparser than I expected. But it only took a few pages and I forgot my discomfort. I was in.
Books you are certain of rereading before you’re even halfway through are so far between. Mary Pearson delivers such a book.
Books with a true, hearty laugh-out-loud moment are hard to find. Pearson delivers the paragon of moments with a mistaken vocabulary word.
And she can write. “Silence threads though the house like a lace pulling tight.”
Did I mention she seamlessly weaves a future world, replete with unaltered life, and replete with change, without once sounding like a conspiracy theorist? Always just the right amount of progress and “progress.”
The epilogue was slightly dissatisfying, but I think that’s because it confirmed the novel’s inevitable bittersweet qualities. One thing readers won’t run short of is passages for discussion!
Things that weaken most writing only enhance Pearson’s. For example, she doesn’t flesh out Jenna’s old friends. They are names, and not much else. Your mind begins to dismiss them as stock characters and then you stop. You stop and realize that Jenna feels the same distance, the same emptiness of color, background and endearment. She, too, is missing the million pieces that knit friends into our hearts.
Another example. Very few authors can pose enormous philosophical questions without sounding pompous and obvious. Pearson creates a girl who knows nothing—of self, of human interaction, of mortality—and suddenly, enormous philosophical questions are vital. The reader soaks them in. “The question that twists inside me again and again—am I enough?—I realize for the first time, is not just my question, but was the old Jenna’s question as well.”
It is everyone’s question. We all wonder at the weight of a sparrow.