Goodreads description:Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.
This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.
As the summary describes, Lennie’s sister (Bailey) has just died. Lennie and Bailey were close and Bailey’s death was sudden and shocking. Lennie lives with her grandma (Gram) and her uncle (Uncle Big) is a huge part of their life. She never knew her father and her mother took off when the sisters were young, leaving them with their grandmother. After Bailey’s death, the family has to find away to go on without her.
Disinterested in school, friends, and life in general without her sister; Lennie withdraws from life, pushing away her family and best friend Sarah and loses all interest in clarinet. Bailey’s boyfriend Toby is always around. They both want to talk about her, share her, are resistant to let her go at all, which creates a bond between them. They both have a lot of love left over and don’t know how to handle it with no obvious place to put it.
Lennie goes back to school to discover a gorgeous new kid by the name of Joe. Talented and gorgeous, he instantly shows interest in Lennie. He pushes her to play music with passion and to live again. And eventually it helps and she starts to play and take an interest in life again.
The whole book follows Lennie as she copes with the heartbreaking loss of one of the most important people in her life. She doesn’t want to move on, she wants to keep Bailey as close as she can. Sprinkled throughout the book are poems and memories about Bailey written by Lennie, she writes them on anything she finds: gum wrappers, walls, takeaway cups and other random canvases. She writes thoughts, feelings and anecdotes to help with coping and leaves them all over town. In order to move on, she has to make changes. In the process, she learns about herself, her family, and many new things about the sister she thought she knew so well.
I didn’t agree or like a few of the things Lennie did while grieving, but I think she really made progress and grew by the end of the book. I liked that the story showed her going through the motions and stalled. I liked that it showed her mistakes. I really liked that it addressed the give and take of grief and attempting to balance pain with moving on.
I liked this book, it was enjoyable if not a little frustrating to read. I won’t say why for spoiler reasons, but sometimes Lennie was just too much for me, I understood her sadness but I didn’t connect very well with her. I will say that she was funny and her snark was enjoyable. I probably wouldn’t read it again, but I would be glad to read other books by the author. Even though I didn’t “fall” for this book, I would definitely encourage anyone to give it a shot to see how they might feel about it!