Things I'm Seeing Without You

368p. Dial. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780735228047.
Gr 9 Up—Gutted by grief after losing Jonah, her Internet boyfriend, to suicide, Tess Fowler drops out of her boarding school, throws her laptop into a freezing cold lake, and then jumps in with all of her clothes on. Aimless and without other options, she ends up helping her absentee father with his struggling alternative funeral business. In the midst of this change, Tess is contacted by Jonah's college roommate Daniel, who reveals some unsettling information about Tess's relationship with Jonah. Tess and Daniel work through their grief while planning Jonah's funeral. In a different book, the setup might feel forced, but in this tender and hopeful YA debut, Tess's journey feels natural and earned. At its core, this novel is about a shared community of pain and recovery. Bognanni nails the messiness of grief in a way that is authentic to each protagonist's loss. The strength of the book lies in the evolution of the characters and their dealings with one another. These relationships grow tentatively and authentically—there are no cinematic declarations of love or tidy endings. The book will satisfy readers of realistic fiction with its dark humor, optimistic outcome, and thoughtful exploration of grief and family dynamics.
VERDICT A first purchase for teen-serving libraries where realistic fiction is in high demand.

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