Book: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
Genre(s): Young Adult
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication date: 2010
Hardback: 259 pages
Summary: Cass, a teenage girl with wicked engineering skills, loses her connection to her circle of friends after her best friend Julia dies. Julia’s friends, the drama crowd of her class, want to present the musical that she wrote as a way of honoring her life. Cass has no talent for the stage and is not so sure that she wants to design and build the special effects that would be her role in this project, especially when her nemesis is cast in the lead role. She escapes into a summer adventure — a cross-country bicycling trip.
Thoughts: I saw lots of positive reviews for Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, but finally read it in response to this review by Bookish Desi, a friend of mine who has recommended books to me before that I liked. When I reported back to her how much I enjoyed it, she said that since I liked that, I should read a book by her colleague, Emily Horner, called A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend.
There are several similarities between the two books. Both stories feature activities surrounding a high school musical production. Both books explore adolescent relationships of all types, including romantic gay relationships. Both books deal with some serious teen issues. One of the Will Graysons is clinically depressed. Of course, grieving is a large theme in a story about one’s dead best friend.
The books are very different, too. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is more male-centered while A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend features more female characters including Cass, the lead. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a touch lighter in tone mostly because the character of Tiny is so over the top and often funny. The ending of Will Grayson, Will Grayson was fun, but also a bit odd and surreal. The ending of A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend was more conventional, but also, for me, more satisfying.
Although these books explore sexuality, the actual love-making is limited to kissing scenes. I would have been educated and surprised by these books when I was a teenager and not just due to the presence of gay relationships — I was protected from adult relationships, period. As someone over 40, I suppose I am supposed to be shocked and appalled by the exposure that modern young people get to sex. But, my experience made me aware of the problems of going too naively into the world. I suspect kids these days are better off being a bit more exposed to adult situations than I was. Books like Will Grayson, Will Grayson and A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend are safe and effective ways of learning about relationships. Since teens are going to be exposed to celebrity gossip, sit-com innuendo, and conversations with other teenagers, books like these provide a thoughtful counterbalance.
To whom will this book appeal?:
Teens: particularly ones looking for books with realistic portrayals of contemporary high school interactions, with a bit of romance
Fans of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Especially the girls.
The drama crowd. I would have loved both of these books when I was painting sets for musicals and playing the tiny roles I got in high school and community theater productions. Bringing back those memories was a large part of their appeal to me now.