Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Psst: It's in the treehouse!

I'm going to be honest here. I picked up YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME based on the cover with a little cred from the author. I was expecting something a little spookie. What with the illusion of a ghost. So...mark me surprised when I find out it's about suicide, drug abuse, obesity and self-loathing. This said, there's more than one way to see a ghost.

Miles, or "8 Mile" as she's so kindly referred to by her peers, has just lost her cousin Laura to suicide. Miles loved Laura like a sister, they grew up together, they did everything together. Now, true, they had grown apart a little once they hit high school, with Laura being a perfect blond beauty and Miles preferring items of the Goth-ier persuasion, but they always shared the treehouse, and their drug stash. When Laura kills herself with those very same drugs they've shared, Miles is sent into a tailspin of grief-stricken abuse.

"All those finger-waggers admonishing about what no to do -- Don't do drugs! Don't smoke! Don't drink! -- completely miss that there's a reason people do these vices. They feel good, in the moment. The risks and consequences - addiction, disease, a life spiraling out of control, even death -- don't matter when you're inside the do (p 140).

Ok, now, all of that sounds entirely too dire and dark to be AT ALL enjoyable, right? Well, you're forgetting about the author. In the hands of Rachel Cohn, the darkness is skillfully plumbed, but not without some wit and humor. We are talking about the woman who brought us Cyd Charisse and the Levithan collaborations, you know. So there's an ever-present dark, witty humor in the voice of Miles. For instance, at Laura's funeral:

"The private-school girls are straight-haired, skinny fashonista clones who look like their every mood is accessorized; today their lip gloss is in the shade of Sad (p 35).

Deep down, Miles is most angry about the fact that Laura just had the courage to do what Miles doesn't. To kill herself. A life that Miles could barely stand already just becomes more difficult without the person she lived for. Unfortunately, her summer is about to get worse, when her best friend, Jamal, falls in love with one of those skinny fashonistas. They say sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can get better, but will Miles survive the experience?

Even though Miles is losing herself there are people in her life that are fighting to keep her: Her father, Laura's dad, Jamal's mom, Jamal, Laura's fashonista friend; all strong characters trying to help the girl in anyway they can. If she'll just let them in.

Beyond the obvious issues present in the novel, I also found fascinating the topic of D.C. statehood that was a passion for a couple of the characters, including Miles. Not having anything but a cursory connection with The District, it was important both structurally, educationally, and for entertainment (Miles is mad smart - this allowed for some very fun rants).

Favorite quote: "The dream is real while you're in it" (p 140).

Also: This book REALLY made me want a grilled cheese sandwich.

Other blogland posts:

YA Books & More
Liv's Book Reviews <--Hey...I think that's a teen posting...posting well! Brava!

The book should be read by: Those who like Rachel Cohn or Ellen Hopkins, My Big Fat Manifesto, Stay With Me, and 13 Reasons Why.


Little Willow said...

This book is an example of "good and gritty." SO good. Not to be followed, of course, not something to copy in real life but instead learn from - to consider, and to be considerate.

Ms. Yingling said...

I'll have to take a look at this one. Thanks for the warning about the grilled cheese I tell students who read Heavens to Betsy that if they get a craving to make fudge, they have to bring me some !

holly cupala said...

This book is on my list. She talked a little bit about it with Little Willow on rgz TV - the one where Little Willow reads a passage. Beautiful and haunting!