A Review of Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

deathOne awesome thing about being a blogger is receiving free books, especially books that are awesome reads. I received this book in particular from Running Press Kids and managed to read it in a few hours. It was as good as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and left a tight-hearted feeling in me because it touched me on so many levels that I feltl abused by this paperback.

Frenchie Garcia harbored a secret crush on Andy Cooper, who committed suicide in Frenchie’s senior year of high school. She was the last to see him before he took his own life. Unable to come to grips with his death, she grieves deeply and is often mistaken as morose and moody. To deal with her grief, she seeks comfort at the grave of Emily Dickinson–not the poet, but simply Emily Dickinson, her imaginary friend. She soon decides the only way to come to terms with Andy’s death is to re-trace her steps and relive the night she was with Andy to find out why he chose to be with her and no one else. 

Suicide has always been a subject that immediately taps into my empathy because I know all too well what it feels like to be on the brink of wanting to end one’s own life. Sanchez is incredibly sensitive with the topic and knows how to weave a story that makes readers connect with both Andy and Frenchie. I especially connected with Andy because I kept wondering throughout the entire book what made him decide to end his own life. However, the answer isn’t in the pages because it ultimately doesn’t matter why he chose to. There are hints that he was depressed, but like most depressed people, Andy didn’t show that he was.

Frenchie is a very dark character. She’s generally dour, doesn’t like to get out much, but she’s also grieving and is simply acting as any grieving teen would. But it’s easy to connect with her if one has experienced grief before. It’s painful and saps the best of you, leaving you with the worst of yourself. Frenchie’s grief is very personal because no one but her knows that she is grieving. When her friends try to get Frenchie out of her shell, they often don’t realize they are worsening matters because they don’t see the grief she is experiencing.

The pacing of the book is even and steady, and the book takes place in three parts. The first part is simply the beginning of the book, with Frenchie living her life and not touching too much upon Andy Cooper until the second part, where Frenchie decides to relive her moments with Andy Cooper; instead of Andy, she relives them with a boy named Colin, someone she met at a club who seems to be interested in the dark aspects of her. The third part of the book is where Frenchie begins to accept that Andy is no longer alive.

What I find most appealing about this book is how Sanchez kept it from turning into the classic romantic tragedy–which there is nothing wrong with, but it’s a book about grief. Since Frenchie chose to take Colin along for the ride of trying to relive her moments with Andy, I worried the focus would be pulled away from her and Andy and would be put on her and Colin. But Sanchez does no such thing. She keeps the focus on Frenchie and Andy to really convey her grief and give readers a small glimpse into Andy’s psyche to help them understand why he may have ended his life. There is a subtle hint at the end that Frenchie may want something more with Colin, but Sanchez manages to keep the focus away from that in order to keep the book heavily centered on grief. She is honest and open and does not water the subject down. Fans of John Green will definitely appreciate this book.

Overall, I grant this book a 5/5 because it takes such sensitive topics as grief and suicide and effectively portrays them realistically without dumbing either subject down. It also doesn’t focus on the why of Andy’s suicide so much as it simply focuses on Frenchie’s desire to know why he chose to spend his last night with her. I appreciated this aspect of the book because it doesn’t matter why a person commits suicide. It simply matters that the person did commit suicide and what we as human beings can do to help those suffering in silence who desperately need help.

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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

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