There was something about Ellie... Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance, and kept watch.
Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are 34 clues she left behind. 34 strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. 34 secrets of a brief and painful life.
Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they begin to confront the darkest truths about themselves, they will also find out what Ellie herself had been hiding all along...
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
(Source: I borrowed a copy of this book.)
Ellie is dead, whether it was suicide or an accidental overdose nobody knows. Sarah did it with her, but she survived.
Ellie was a live-wire, but she also self-harmed, cutting herself, drinking too much, and getting high all the time.
Now she’s gone and it’s up to everyone left behind to pick up the pieces.
This book is an emotional journey of how the three people closest to Ellie perceived her and her actions, how they made things better or worse, and how they feel about Ellie and certain events after she is gone. Thankfully though, this book is not depressing, which I find many books about these sort of issues to be.
The story is told from the points of view of Sarah (Ellie’s best friend), Jessie (Sarah’s sister), and Jake (Ellie’s brother), and also from multiple points in time both before and after Ellie’s death. Each of the character’s lives is so complex, and the interweaving of their lives is really beautiful to read.
Ellie’s life is messed up. She’s hiding secrets that have really messed with her head, and she’s acting crazy in defiance of the way she feels inside. She’s sending out self-destruct signals, only they’re difficult for people to spot, and as so often is the way, nobody believes that she will really damage herself to the point where she dies. Ellie’s strange, and destructive behaviours are a cry for help, only she finds it difficult to accept help if it’s offered. This same pattern is mirrored by Sarah in the time after Ellie’s death.
This book obviously deals with the very real problems of depression and suicide in teens, but instead of focusing directly on Ellie it focuses on how her behaviour affected her friends and family and how nobody was brave enough to accept the reality of how Ellie was feeling and do something about it.
There is a hint at romance in this book, but again it’s tangled in with everything else that happens to Allie, Sarah, Jessie, and Jake, and it’s not really an over-riding theme. Each of the characters are totally real and flawed in their own ways, and it’s easy to get inside their heads as you read their chapters. I liked the way the book moved on from character to character to give you a more rounded idea as to what was going on, and who was thinking and feeling what.
I think the idea of this book is to bring the subject of teen depression, self-harm, and suicide into a public forum, and I think it does this well. I just hope that people take the advice to ask for help after reading this, rather than going Ellie’s route and resorting to drinking, drugs, and cutting.
If I had one complaint it would be that the cover for this book bears no resemblance to the story itself at all. I think the girl is supposed to be Ellie, but does that girl look depressed, self-destructive, and suicidal to you? Can you see the multiple scars on all that exposed flesh from where she’s used blades to slice her skin?
And the other thing; I had absolutely no idea that the little handwritten messages at the start of each chapter were written by Ellie, none at all – until I read the blurb (which I read after I read the book (I didn’t want spoilers)). The box of notes in question also doesn’t play as key a role in the story as the blurb leads you to believe either. (Okay, sorry, maybe that’s 2 complaints…)
Overall; this is an insightful, poignant book, with an important message, and I really enjoyed it. I will definitely be buying a copy of this to keep.
8.75 out of 10.