You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: You Are Not Here

Author: Samantha Schutz

Published: October 1st, 2010 by Scholastic

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: 4/5

Review Sent to Scholastic*:

Samantha Schutz’s You Are Not Here perfectly encapsulates the confusion, denial, and stubborn grief that its main character feels after the death of the boy she believes she loves. This book is my first exposure to novels in verse, and I can say with a surety that I won’t hesitate to read another. Emotionally penetrating and beautifully written, the book will no doubt resound with readers and stay with them through any turbulent time of their lives.

Synopsis:

Annaleah and Brian shared something special – Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn’t need anyone else. It didn’t matter that their relationship was secret. All that mattered was what they had with each other.

And then, out of nowhere, Brian dies. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss that no one will let you have? [From Goodreads]

Review:

This book surprised me countless times. Once when I received it and found out that it’s in verse, again when I found that, despite some oddities and bits of it that “really aren’t my thing,” I enjoyed it.

The verse was enjoyable all on its own. I loved having the ability to breeze through forty pages in moments. Reading verse is so much fun. It’s like a game! (That’s my nerdiness poking its head out from beneath the sand.) The book was written so perfectly that it flowed powerfully and swiftly, crashing by gracefully.

The content of the novel was sometimes unlike what I prefer, but it was fairly clean and not too specific when it came to the more sexual scenes. I must say, however, that I wouldn’t be comfortable with recommending this to my book club without requesting parents’ permission. You Are Not Here discusses some serious topics and important problems that require the scenes that are included in the book.

Annaleah is the perfect main character for a story such as this. Her feelings and, occasionally, the lack thereof are what carry the story. On the other hand, I didn’t feel as though I knew her very well. I only saw her at her weakest for a majority of the book. I could never get a clear idea of what she was like in different settings or under normal circumstances. I wish that I could understand not only her feelings, but her.

It was clear to me from the beginning that Annaleah’s relationship with Brian was wrong and bound to be hurtful on so many levels, but to Annaleah it evidently wasn’t. She romanticized the dead. It was fascinating (and depressing) to read about her dreams and fantasies that were often nightmares to me. The slight sick feeling I felt then only made the better feelings later on sweeter.

So, while I have no doubt that Brian was not an upstanding guy, and I have less respect for him as a result, I understand why he was necessary to Annaleah’s growth. Mistakes are essential to the accumulation of wisdom. The consequences of mistakes are important for comparison. As Annaleah makes better decisions and meets more impressive people, the consequences bring so much more happiness – happiness that is strong and sure, not weak and half-imagined.

Ethan and Annaleah’s other friends prove to be great people full of genuine concern. The moment Ethan appeared, the development of their relationship was pretty predictable, but it was welcome and most definitely an important part of Annaleah’s recovery.

Another featured relationship was the one between Annaleah and her mother. And her father. Oh, goodness, her father. The fragments we’re fed as readers concerning Annaleah’s father are interesting, until we learn more – and suddenly they’re fascinating.

I have such an ideal relationship with my parents that it can be mind-boggling to think of different sorts – relationships between kids and parents that are so not ideal that they can be somewhat frightening. The reparative scenes between Annaleah and her mother form a love story you can root for.

In the end, the book was satisfying and hardy, disturbing and pitiful. I recommend it to anyone who wants a quick read that will also make them think and wonder – and odd combination, but a great one. You Are Not Here is certainly special.

*Thanks for the review copy!

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