AUTHOR: LAURA HARRINGTON
Details: Received from Book Geeks
Alice Bliss is fifteen years old when her father volunteers to go to Iraq to fight a war Alice doesn’t believe in.
While her mother, Angie, her eight year old sister, Ellie and Alice herself are all fervently against this idea, Matt Bliss can’t be dissuaded. He feels the need to do something useful and has to go, no matter how hard the separation will be. And, after all, it will only be for one year.
It is only a few months later when Alice and her family are visited by army officials informing them that Matt has gone missing in action. Although very little is known, they are told that he was shot and taken away by the enemy.
For the remaining members of the Bliss family a very uncertain time starts. They have to learn how to live with hope when there is nothing to hold on to and subsequently how to say goodbye to a loved one much earlier then anybody could have imagined.
Alice’s personal journey is a complicated one. She has been closer to her dad then her mom for all her life and now finds it almost impossible to communicate with Angie who is not really dealing with Matt’s decision and the subsequent events herself. She is in the middle of the always tumultuous teenage years, trying to discover what she wants from life, where she stands in the world and her new feelings for Henry, who has been her best friend for as long as she can remember.
Alice and the rest of her family will have to find new ways to be together, to cope with grieve and continue living while coming to terms with the loss of the man who was the centre of their lives.
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking coming of age story. Alice is a very realistic teenager; her emotions are all over the place, she is uncertain about most things she feels, thinks and does. She is at times completely unreasonable, and while she is aware of that, unable to do anything to change it.
She is also a wonderful big sister to little Ellie and completely devoted to her father.
Because Alice comes across as a normal teenage girl you could meet any day, anywhere in the world, it is very easy for the reader to share her emotions. You feel her pain, sense her insecurities, share her hopes and experience her despair.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not end up with tears in their eyes on at least a few occasions. I would also be surprised if any reader could read this book without breaking into a big smile once or twice.
The story is mainly told from Alice’s perspectives but occasionally you get an insight into the thoughts and feelings of others around her. This means that the reader knows that Angie is aware of her shortcomings as a mother and her desire to do better, even while she fails. We also get a good idea about the confusion Henry experiences when his feelings for his best friend change into something more, something he isn’t quite sure how to deal with. Because of this shared perspective the story feels balanced and true to life where it could otherwise easily have been an overly sentimental story about a teenager.
Overall this was an engrossing, charming, heartbreaking and lovingly told story. There were times when the story was maybe a little bit too American for my European mind, but in the end this is a universal story of loss, and the different ways in which we learn to deal with it.