While the reviews for this book have been lukewarm, I found it to be a quick and interesting read, one that takes a twist on a predictable plot. Grace is in the throes of depression and despair following the death of her older brother in a car accident. Matthew was more than a big brother; he was a friend, someone she could turn to for advice. Now, Grace and her parents are searching for ways to fill the void left by his death. Grace's parents turn to work and to the church. Grace feels as if God has abandoned her, and therefore does not find the comfort her parents do. School is difficult as there are constant reminders of Matthew. Predictably, Grace wants to avoid any reminders and, thus, falls in with a new group of peers, a group that parties too much. Grace is saved from what would be a meltdown by a new girl in school, Philomena. It turns out that Philomena is a spirit sent to help Grace deal with her grief in a more productive manner. Yes, there are the stereotyped characters. However, I find most YA readers do not see these kids as the stereotypes we as adult readers see them to be. What I enjoyed about this book was that readers could sense Grace's emotions and perhaps access them more readily. I appreciated the discussion of spirituality and religion in the novel as well. There are precious few books that talk about this aspect of teen life. I know adolescence is a time of testing and even denial of faith. However, not all teens reject religion and spirituality. I can still hear Natalie's voice on the day her mother died telling us that God had sent her and her sister to live with us because he knew that their Mom was going to die and that she was happier knowing the kids had a place to be and to be loved. To her, it was all part of God's plan. That's an interesting take for a 9 year old. But religion and faith and spirituality do play an important part of her life. I think she will find a connection to this book because of that. It is interesting to see more books dealing with death and grief again. This theme seemed to have faded for a while and is back now in many noteworthy books.
I gave it a good review for VOYA (4 Q 4 P) and disagree with those lukewarm reviews I saw after I posted my review to VOYA (I never look at other's reviews until I have committed mine). It will be interesting to see what teens have to say.