Monday, June 20, 2011

Nerds Heart YA: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

This is one of two books Anna and I are judging for the Nerds Heart YA contest. 

Cass has never been one of the drama people. She only hung out with them because of her best friend Julia. But Julia died in a car accident, and the drama people are determined to put on the show Julia was working on: Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. Cass is working on the set now, but she wasn't on board from the start. First it took a cross-country bike trip with Julia's ashes to figure out what she needed to do.

Loved. This. So much. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the voice it was told in, just loved it. I loved the idea of going on a cross-country bike ride to find yourself, with your dead best friend's ashes because you just can't work on her Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad musical, which, by the way, is the most awesome title of any musical. Heart.

I really liked how the story is framed. In the present time, Cass has already returned from her trip, it's August and she's working on the show with everyone else. Every other chapter though, goes back and we see what happened. What happened when Julia's boyfriend Ollie decides they were going to do the show, and Cass' doubts. How Ollie cast Heather, Cass' middle school nemesis who constantly questioned her sexuality, as the lead, and Cass can't deal. How she takes off on her road trip, and a lot of stuff happens along the way. It all came together so well, as work on the play continues and conflict grows, and we learn more about what happened to Cass on her trip and everything starts to make more sense.

Cass was a great character. She was far from perfect. She missed Julia, and she was confused about a lot of things. She hated having to work with Heather, who had been so cruel to her, and didn't understand why Heather was now being nice, as if she was suppose to just forget about everything that had been done to her. She grew a lot over the course of the book. I loved seeing her change.

Heather was an excellent character as well. I could understand why Cass disliked her so much, but also could see why Cass started to fall for her. When she wasn't being mean, she was smart and funny and great to hang around with. I thought it was excellent that when Heather explained her reason for being cruel to Cass in middle school, all wasn't immediately forgiven. Yes, there was a reason, but there being a reason doesn't make it OK, and it takes Cass a while to work past that, which I thought was very realistic.

Heather and Cass' relationship grows naturally. It wasn't rushed, it didn't feel forced, and it made sense. A problem I often have with YA romances is that I don't understand why people end up together or where their relationship came from. With Cass and Heather, it worked so well. Of course, Heather isn't as ready as she thought she was to be open about her relationship, and Cass starts to have doubts as well, and then they have a big fight right before the show and Heather isn't performing well and everything might be totally ruined! Will Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad be able to go on?

Also, props for talking about a religion that I (and probably a lot of people I would think) don't know very much about. Cass and her family are Quakers, and I definitely got to learn some stuff about Quakers I did did not know before.

You should read it. Yes you. It's one of those books that leaves with a good feeling afterward. One that you want to snuggle with for a little while after you're done reading it. And it won't take you long to read, but make sure you have some free time, because you won't want to put it down.

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