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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Clipped, Quirky YA Grief Novel Memorable And Affecting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Best friends aren't supposed to die.  Especially when they're beautiful, vibrant and only 14 years old.  Elderly people have trouble with their hearts, not teenagers.  That's why it's still so hard for Emmy Anderson to believe her BFF Kim Porter is dead.  Kim, on the other hand, embraced her impending demise, even making vehement promises to visit Emmy from beyond the grave.  Emmy has clung to those vows, but apparently, Kim has forgotten her.  Aching with grief and loneliness, Emmy can't let her friend go.  She has to find a way to talk to Kim.

Then, Emmy—who assumed she just sucked at communicating with departed souls—gets a shock: she can see dead people.  She spies her nasty science teacher, Emmy's uncle (who is thankfully not naked), even a teenage boy who perished in a tragic roller coaster accident.  It seems the only ghost she can't see is the one she desperately needs to find.  As Emmy comes to term with her new talent as well as her old pain, she finally realizes that the only way to move forward might be to let Kim go.  If only it were that easy ...

Kids-dealing-with-the-loss-of-a-loved-one books are a dime a dozen.  Thus, it takes a lot to make one stand out.  With her newest, The End Or Something Like That, Ann Dee Ellis succeeds in creating a grief novel that's both memorable and affecting.  I've thought a lot about why this one stands out; I think it boils down to three things: writing style, setting, and an overall quirkiness.  Although The End or Something Like That is billed as a YA book, it's got more of a middle grade tone.  Emmy's clipped, choppy narration makes her seem younger than her years, while at the same time giving her a more realistically teenage thought process than is usually found in YA novels.  This, coupled with the intensity of her pain, makes her a wholly sympathetic (although not always likable) heroine.  As for setting, there's just nowhere quite like Las Vegas.  Its boisterous falsity provides the perfect backdrop for this story about what is real and what is truly important.  The unique setting gives The End Or Something Like That part of its quirkiness, but the rest of it comes from larger-than-life characters and the oddball situations they find themselves in.  Although the novel deals with familiar themes, it's these three things, coupled with Ellis' strong prose, that makes this story stand out.  While it didn't blow my mind, I definitely enjoyed this quick, quirky read.    

(Readalikes:  I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The End Or Something Like That from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!


  1. Love a quick, quirky read! This sounds cute, will have to heck it out.

  2. This sounds sad although it is good that it stands out in this crowded genre

  3. I've got an autographed copy on my shelf and it's still waiting for me! I got to meet AnnDee at the Mormon Arts Foundation last October. :-)


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