I found this book on MG Book Village’s book club list. I was hoping to join their Twitter discussion but ended up not being available at that time. All I knew was that it was a story about dealing with death and ghosts. I purchased the book via Amazon and when it arrived I was crushing on the jacket art by Helen Musselwhite. It’s dark, lovely, and purple. Then, to my wonderful surprise, I notice the entire text of the book is printed in purple. There is a beautiful dedication at the beginning followed by a quote by C.S. Lewis;
“Courage, dear heart.”
I dove into this story like a hungry kid who’s been smelling mom’s dinner cooking all day long. Unfortunately for me, this was one of those meals that turns out to be an acquired taste. I cannot lie, I could put this book down.
Let me back up and admit that I am a slow reader. Also, I would probably have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child if there had been a name or any knowledge about that at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always need comic books or simple kid-lit to entertain. I love my Shakespeare and I am currently reading Tolstoy (again). I was just expecting this story to grab my hand and run pulling me away into a dark adventure. Upon reflection, I can now see that it could never have been that story. It’s so much more.
Cecelia Dahl, the main character has lost her little brother to a freak accident and is lost in her mourning, and grief has imprisoned her parents. There is no running away on adventures when death is involved. I know from personal experience that time stops, healing takes a strange path, and it is indeed very much like falling down the rabbit hole.
K.A. Reynolds makes no bones about her admiration of Alice and Wonderland yet don’t think for a second that this is comparable. Cecelia has a mission, has a purpose, and it’s more about confusion than curiosity. Death, after all, is confusing.
I think the thing that distanced me from the beginning is the fact that Cecelia lives on a distant planet and is not exactly human, or at least not an earthling. There are different laws of nature and rules that just exist without explanation and while this is PERFECTLY normal, I am just that type of kid who always asks “but why” and “but how”. It made me uncomfortable as I was wanting specific information and I was second guessing random things in this book that should have been admired and accepted. I was reading it more like a mystery where every item is a suspect rather than reading it as an MG novel about death and despair. Once I reached that realization and simply relaxed, the book flowed much easier for me. I think, perhaps, this was part of K.A. Reynold’s point; “let go and accept”.
We have no control over death, but we have a certain amount of control over life, not much, but some. Cecelia does what she can with her life to overcome the tragedy her and her family has suffered. She goes to fantastical places and sees very peculiar things and meets all types of creatures in her attempt to rescue her parents who have become lost to sorrow and grief. There are unexpected friends and very odd adventures that are extremely unique to Cecelia and her grief, but still very universal in a quiet and soft manner to those willing to pay attention.
There is so much more to this story, but I do not wish to dissect it too much because that was part of the reading process for me. And while I did not fall in love with this book as instantly as I had hoped, I believe it will be one of those stories you re-read over your lifetime and enjoy for different reasons each time. There is so much in here, I’m so very glad to have it live on my shelf so I may visit it again in the future.