Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Sixteen-year-old Cass is mourning the recent death of Julia, her best friend since Grade 3. Their circle of friends was a group of drama nerds, although Cass always felt that they were more Julia's friends than hers. Julia had almost finished writing a musical before she died, and so the group decided to stage Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad as a tribute to her. Cass was working on set design, but when her nemesis Heather gets cast in the lead Ninja Princess role, it's more than she can take. Back in Grade 8, before she transferred to a Catholic school, Heather made sure the whole school knew that Cass was a dyke.

Julia and Cass had been planning a summer road trip from Chicago to California in Julia's car, so Cass decides to do the trip solo. On bicycle.

The story is told in alternating Then and Now chapters. 'Now' is the end of summer, after her bicycle adventure, with Cass having returned to help with the musical that will open when school starts in September. 'Then' is before and during the big trip. In Cass's coming-of-age year, she learns not to denigrate the value of friendship by saying things like "we were just friends." She kisses a girl for the first time. And she learns to give people a second chance.

The nuanced cast of characters is a strong appeal element here. And then there is the really wacky musical, along the lines of the one in Will Grayson, Will Grayson (David Levithan and John Green) but with lots of fake blood. Michelle from my book group, who sent me this link to The Onion's story about staging Shakespeare, would appreciate the part where Cass describes doing everything with Julia, even "when Shakespeare in the Park did Twelfth Night with finger puppets."

Highly recommended. Grade 7 and up.

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