Summary provided by author: Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists. Lists like ten reasons why it's my fault Francesca's dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.
Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family's struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella's eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency. WIth conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we're open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.
My take: I've read that the longest relationship that most people have in life is with their siblings. Whether they love you or just love to drive you crazy, they are usually people who have a huge presence in your life. I've ready many touching YA books with main characters who have lost siblings, books like In Honor by Jessi Kirby, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, and Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie.
In Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye, Carmella's big sister Francesca has recently died of a drug overdose, and Carmella's family is falling apart at the seams. Her parents seem in denial, asking Carmella to tell people that Francesca died of a "heart condition." They take her to help them pack up the apartment that Francesca shared with her boyfriend, Donny. Then it seems to Carmella that they want to box the memory of her sister up and lose themselves in work.
I thought that Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye was a touching and realistic portrait of grief. Everyone handles loss differently, and the book showed a variety of different reactions. Carmella's parents are devout Catholics and embarrassed by their daughter's drug use. Francesca's boyfriend falls into a downward spiral of grief and guilt. Carmella tries to go back to her regular life, but finds it difficult. She knew that Francesca was experimenting with drugs, and feels horribly guilty that she didn't tell someone.
Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye had a very different feel that I've been trying to put my finger on. There's a sort of timelessness about it. Many of the characters' names -- Donny, Howie, Carmella -- felt old-fashioned. If it hadn't been for a few popular culture and technology references, this book could have taken place anytime between the 1970s and the present. This "world out of time" feel could also be because there's not a great deal of plot. While many of the "grief books" I've read have incorporated some sort of other storyline -- a road trip, a mystery to be solved -- Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is just a portrait of one family in grief. I do think that when you're grieving, it feels like your life exists on a separate track from the rest of the world, which just keeps going on as if nothing has happened.
By far, my favorite part of the book was Howie. He comes into the bakery one day with his friend Jeremy to order a cake, and sets his sights on Francesca. She's skittish and standoffish -- Howie lives in a richer part of town and she doesn't think he can understand what she's going through. But Howie has a lot of surprises up his sleeve. He's a Jewish figure skater -- a character I've never seen before in YA -- and he doesn't give up on Carmella. Howie becomes a friend to Carmella, at first a distraction, and eventually a reminder that her sister would have wanted her to be happy.
If Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye sounds like something you'd enjoy, the author is giving away copies of the book -- you can enter in the Rafflecopter below:
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