We Are Okay
Publication: February 14, 2017
Marin is lonely. Her grandfather has passed leaving her with no family and after he dies, she runs away to college. She’s ignored texts and emails from her friends back home so when winter break arrives, she stays at school where she is the only one in the dorms-more loneliness. This girl was so lonely, it made me lonely.
Marin’s best friend, Mabel, is arriving for the weekend and they haven’t spoken since her grandfather’s passing and Marin is anxious. If my review seems lackluster, it’s because I felt nothing as I read this book; I didn’t connect with any of the characters.
My major problem with this book is the underdevelopment of the characters. At one point, Marin says that she didn’t really know her grandfather and she listed what she knew. UM…HELLO, I can say the same thing about Marin-her mother died when she was three; she likes literature; she likes girls. I can say the same thing about Mabel-she’s Mexican; her mother is a painter; she has an older brother; she goes to school in Cali. That’s literally all you know about most of the characters. I think I knew more about the grandfather than Marin and Mabel.
Although the relationship between Marin and Mabel was refreshing, I don’t think it did much to the plot. Maybe that was intentional but if they had just been best friends, I don’t think it would have affected the story.
I felt like this book tried too hard. At first I thought Marin had a mental illness but I don’t think she did because if so, it wasn’t handled well-that ending tho. I won’t go into the ending because it’s a spoiler but it felt unrealistically too fast.
Bang Bang Rating: 1/2
By Jeff Zentner
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Bang Bang Rating:
Carver made a mistake; he texted his friend knowing he was driving. As a result, all of his friends died in a car crash and Carver may face criminal charges.
The novel begins days after the crash at the last funeral and days before the start of school. While attending the last funeral, Carver befriends his deceased friend’s girlfriend-Jesmyn. Together Carver and Jesmyn grieve and support each other but Carver begins to have romantic feelings for her. While a different author may fall for the teens-want-a-romance trope, Zentner explores a sweet relationship between a boy and girl. In addition to a terrible loss, Carver may face criminal charges because he knowingly texted a friend while he was driving. There is a law against this and I don’t remember what it’s called but this added pressure leads to panic attacks. Carver has a supportive sister who encourages him to seek therapy which is unusual for a character in YA novels to visit a therapist in the middle of the story. Nana Betsy, one of Carver’s deceased friend’s grandmother, asks him to spend a day with her as a day to say goodbye thus the meaning of the title-Goodbye Days. The other families hear about Goodbye Days and request Carver spend a day with them as well. All three days are different. One was uplifting, one added to his grief, and one was enlightening.
Like The Serpent King, Goodbye Days explores religion which a lot of YA novels do not do and Zentner does a great job of including faith without it sounding preachy (pun intended). This novel opens a new conversation about liability with something that we all have probably done-text someone that we knew was driving. The fact the the driver answered the text, which is the obvious place to lay blame, Goodbye Days does not focus on that and I’m pretty sure that was intentional by Zentner. A second underused theme in YA that Zentner has included again in GD are parents. In many YA novels parents don’t exist, they are not relatable, or just plain ridiculous but Zentner writes a balance of the very supportive parent to the hardass parent to the absent parent. Zentner also features a positive father. I was on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee last year where we discussed 120 books and it was a running joke was that all the dads were horrible except The Serpent King. GD has lots of dads and they weren’t all great but they were present and believable.
There are A LOT of grief books out there making it difficult to stand out. The plot in GD was different in that it focused on the person who texted and not the driver who texted back and the goodbye day aspect was out of the ordinary. However how teens deal with grief tends to be similar in all grief books. I enjoyed The Serpent King more because it was a surprise grief book. TSK also featured southern rural religious teens first which also made it special.
Goodbye Days has solid writing and character development. It included multiple themes and it is a great conversation starter.