What I Came To Tell You (Goodreads | Amazon) is a good, but sad story, that tackles both grief and growing up. Set in Asheville, North Carolina, the book has Appalachian roots and a distinct sense of place without getting into the touchy area of dialect (meaning dialect can be well done, or it can be poorly done, difficult to read and offensive).
The story follows Grover, a young 12-year-old boy who recently lost his mother in a sudden accident. There was no long illness or expectation like in many other stories about grief, just a tragic death, and Grover doesn't know how to cope. Grover has always been a bit of an artist but after his mother's death he spends all of his time in the bamboo forest behind his house creating beautiful weavings out of the plants he finds in the woods.
Overall I like this book. It's a good book that deals with the impact of grief, not just on the main character Grover but on his family as a whole. It captures the anger and the guilt, not just the sadness that most people associate with grief. Grief radiates outward, spreading its affect in all relationships, as well as work and school work. The portrayal of grief felt accurate, capturing grief's widespread, long-lasting and complex impact on the life of Grover, his family and friends.
Sam took a couple steps towards Grover. "You stopped riding bikes with me, stopped skateboarding with me, stopped coming to our house." He shrugged. "Stopped being my friend.The book did have some flaws. There was one section where two adults (behind closed doors) have sex. By describing the squeaking of the bed and other sounds, the book made it clear to me, as an adult, these two characters were having sex. My first thought was "Even though this is a middle grade book maybe kids won't notice." Then Grover explains that he knows what he overheard because they'd learned about sex in school. Adults having consensual sex doesn't bother (heck in some books I cheer for it) but this book is distinctively middle grade, and the scene felt out of place and odd. Even though it pushed the plot forward, I feel like this could've been done differently and had the same impact story-wise. (I'm curious what parents think of this, so if you have kids let me know it he comments).
"I already told you--"
"Just because your mother is dead doesn't mean you have to be."
As a middle-grade novel, this book has a lot of important themes - grief, growing up, change, etc. While at times it might seem like too much for one book to deal with, I believe it's true to life. Very rarely does life just throw one obstacle at you. Instead life seems to dump them all on you at once and expect you to figure it out. As an Appalachian, I'm glad to see a story set in our region that's not about fixing Appalachia but where the mountains and culture are a backdrop to a self-contained story. While this may not be the best middle-grade book tackling grief (Bridge to Terabithia has that honor), it's still a good, truthful and enjoyable book.
I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I have an absolutely beautiful hardcover copy of What I Came To Tell You (really it's beautiful and looks like fall).
- This giveaway is open to the United States and Canada.
- You must be 16 years old to enter
- If I catch you cheating you will be disqualified.