From Goodreads: Ella, Astrid, and Sydney were planning the perfect summer after high school graduation. But when Astrid commits suicide in a lonely cabin, the other girls’ worlds are shattered. How could their best friend have done this–to herself and to them? They knew everything about Astrid. Shouldn’t they have seen this coming? Couldn’t they have saved her?
As Ella hunts for the truth, and Sydney tries to dull the pain, a chilling message from Astrid leaves them wondering whether their beloved friend is communicating from the after life. The girls embark on a journey to uncover Astrid’s dark secrets. The answers to those questions–questions they never dreamed of asking–will change their lives forever.
The premise of this novel really drew me in, especially as I really loved Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, and I was hoping this novel would be similar. Unfortunately, as I read and got to know the characters, I found that I really didn’t care for them. While the community grieves for the loss of Astrid, Sydney becomes somewhat of a callous character, partying and distancing herself from her hurt as much as she can, even if that means losing Ella in the wake of it all. Ella, on the other hand, embraces her grief, becoming obsessed with figuring out why Astrid chose death over life, and her obsession sends her on a downward spiral throughout the summer, placing her friendships and relationship with her boyfriend in jeopardy.
Truth be told, the premise sounds a little bit like Pretty Little Liars (I have only seen the TV show, not read the books), and while some aspects of the novel shadow the TV show, it’s also vastly different. Yes, these surviving girls don’t necessarily strum on the readers’ heart strings, and the callousness of Sydney made me think of the nastiness of the girls in the show, but there is no taunting from Astrid like A taunts her friends, and so, in my opinion, this is where the similarities end. Astrid’s messages to Ella are not coldhearted, and there are only a few strategically placed throughout the novel. In truth, as no one else sees them but Ella, it makes her look even more disheveled and obsessed, leaving the reader wondering if these messages are actually real, or a figment of the imagination.
I know that everyone grieves differently, and that we should not judge others, but as an outsider looking in, I really grew to dislike Ella and Sydney as the novel unfolded. The world became all about them, and their epic fights and obsessive behavior really made me wonder just how much they truly cared for Astrid in the first place. As Sydney struggles to outrun her guilt, questioning why she never asked Astrid about her family, or pushed deeper when Astrid seemed on the verge of sharing, she becomes very real, but her shut down of these emotions time and time again made me lose interest in her on the whole. Ella was interesting, but I also felt that her obsession went too far at times, and in the end, I honestly didn’t care much about either girl, or even why Astrid did what she did. The ending was eye-opening, though, and I’m happy to say that things do brighten for the characters, but getting there is a bit of a hike. Two stars.
Merit Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read a copy of this novel, via Netally.