Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and while Cass is still reeling from her death, Julia’s boyfriend and her other drama friends make it their mission to bring to fruition the nearly-completed secret project: a musical about an orphaned ninja princess entitled Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.

Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She doesn’t feel at home with Julia’s drama friends, and she doesn’t see a place for her in the play. Things only get worse when she finds out that Heather Galloway, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school, has been cast as the ninja princess.

Cass can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, so she decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend is a story about friendship. About love. About traveling a thousand miles just to find yourself. About making peace with the past, and making sense of it. And it’s a story about the bloodiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen. (summary from author's website)

I'd seen the cover of this book around online but didn't really have much of a clue about what it was about. When I saw it at my local library I grabbed it, and after reading the blurb, instantly wanted to read it. I'm glad I did! This book is a touching read that I could hardly put down.

I was surprised by just how much there was to this story. In the span of just a few short months, Cass loses her best friend (and possibly her first love); takes on a harrowing journey; both begins and ends her first romantic relationship; realises she does have a place to belong; and finds herself falling in love with the last person she ever would have imagined! Through alternating chapters of Cass's NOW, back at school after her trip to California, and her THEN, detailing the events of that trip, readers really get a feel for Cass, and I couldn't help but become attached to her. Horner's writing allowed Cass's emotions to jump off the page. I found myself tense for her, sad for her, and literally cheering her on. Seriously, at times my stomach dropped and my heart seized! It was a story I just kept wanting more of with every page I turned.

As with most of the books I truly like, its the characters that grab me. As I said, I became emotionally invested in Cass. After losing Julia, the only person she felt she could be herself with, she's completely lost. The thing is though, I don't know if Cass was able to actually be herself even with Julia. As Julia died before the beginning of the book, readers never get the chance to meet her ourselves, but know her only through her friends. In this way, Cass's turmoil is all the more emotional as she too questions her place without the buffer of Julia. Cass really finds herself throughout this book, and it ended full of hope - which I especially enjoyed. I'm a sucker for the fulfilling happily ever after!

I especially enjoyed Cass's developing relationship with Heather. Their scenes together were truly sweet and provided many out loud "awwww" moments! Their friendship - and consequent romance - developed realistically, which is something I don't always experience in the books I choose to read. Heather's revelations were bittersweet and surprising, and much like with Cass, I felt for her.

I also loved the drama group - Ollie, Jon, Amy and Lissa were great supporting characters. They had me laughing out loud with their truly unique personalities. And can I just say, that I would give a lot to be able to see their full performance of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad? Horner's imagination is brilliant - I look forward to reading more of her work!


Publisher: Penguin Group Australia
Date Published: July 28th 2010
Pages: 272

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