Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Review: I Heart You, You Haunt Me
Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.
Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.
Review: Having read Far From You I'm now quite a fan of Lisa Schroeder, and had high expectation for this, her debut novel. And it was no disappointment. It's the most romantic, poetic book I've read in ages. The sort of book that critics would describe as one that breaks your heart and then fixes it again.
The story centres around fifteen-year-old Ava, and opens at the funeral of her recently deceased boyfriend Jackson. For much of the book his death remains a mystery, until Ava finally faces up to the terrible night of his death about 3/4 of the way through the book. Ava herself is a nice enough protagonist, though she does remain much of a mystery. One one hand, all the poems offer a fragile glimpse inside her head, but on the other, who is she? Such is the problem with the first person, dear blog. The first person doesn't need to explain to his or herself what he/she does or doesn't like.
Ava reminded me, actually, a little of the protagonist in Sonya Sones' What My Mother Doesn't Know, because even though the poetry offers a huge insight into the darkest depths of the narrator's mind, their outer self still seems very vague.
And I would say that aside from that, Ava was a likeable, three-dimensional character who was easy to relate to, but if you find out little about her personality and such, does that really make her three-dimensional?
The mind boggles.
The relationship between Ava and Jackson is, in a word, strange. Mostly because, apart from flashbacks, Jackson is a ghost for the whole book. At first it seems slightly charming, but then as the book went on I found myself disliking Jackson more and more, but then as his intentions were revealed right at the end I forgave him slightly. Their relationship seems so human, just because of their reactions to the comings and goings of one another- for instance, when Ava goes out for a while and when she gets back all the kitchen drawers are open and the CD player is on (a.k.a Jackson's way of expressing his anger that she had left him to go elsewhere). The ending was very satisfying, when both of them finally learn how to let go and move on. In that sense it makes having your ghost of a boyfriend not seem romantic, but actually irritating when he stops you from having a life, especially when you can't see or talk to him.
But I think the thing I like most about Lisa Schroeder's novels is the prose. Some verse novels read like prose novels that have been through a shredder, but every single sentence in I Heart You was just fragile, poetic perfection, from the choice of words, occasional alliteration, and form and shape of the poems, which changes now and again. For instance, in parts in relevant scenes the words
and such. As well as being a fan of Lisa Schroeder as a reader, I admire her as a writer. I'm currently writing two novels-in-verse myself (one of which is the one I mentioned that I'm trying to finish), and she along with
Sonya Sones, Ellen Hopkins and Virginia Euwer Wolff is one of those authors I'd answer with if I had to answer the question "if you could invite five authors to a dinner party, who would you invite?" That way I could beg her to give me the secret to her awesome novels (*snorts to self* as if).
And, tragically, it was a very short book, and I read it in one sitting. Perhaps if it was longer then there would have been more depth to the characters- all the characters, not just Ava. For instance, one of the things I like most about Ellen Hopkins' novels is that with most of them around five or six hundred pages (Glass is at present the thickest at 680 pages) The reader really gets to know the character in a way that you wouldn't with a 230-paged novel like I Heart You. It would give the reader a better understanding of all the characters, especially the minor ones, if it was longer.
So, I don't quite think it was as good as Far From You, if only because of Ava's personality, or lack of description thereof. Still, it was an excellent read and I'll definitely seek out her third novel, Chasing Brooklyn, which is also a companion novel of sorts to I Heart You, You Haunt Me.
In Three Words: romantic, poetic, hopeful.
Reccomended for: everyone.