There are only a couple of days left of sophomore year for Ellis, but summer seems to be the last thing on her mind. Her father’s been in a coma for years, and her mom’s talking about finally pulling the plug on the life support. Things are more tense between Ellis and her mother than ever, and Ellis’s best friend doesn’t seem to notice that anything is wrong. When Ellis starts to discover comfort in places she didn’t think to look before, she starts to realize that life has to go on–and she has to go with it.
The deceptively light cover doesn’t hint at the surprising depth of this short, bittersweet coming-of-age story. In her relatively short novel, Magoon has crafted a story about a girl learning to see herself and those around her totally clearly for the first time. While Magoon tackles tough topics, she doesn’t pander to her readers, making this an enjoyable, emotional read that many readers (especially those of contemporary YA) will gobble up.
A strong story all around, Magoon excels especially in creating the main character of Ellis. Her narration is authentic and emotionally real. Her first-person narration as she navigates her pain and her changing feelings drives the novel and allows the reader to get close to the action and the book’s characters. Strong secondary characters, including Ellis’s mother, help add dimension to the story and keep it from ever becoming a cliche.
Although the book grapples with love, loss, and sexual identity, Magoon’s book never feels didactic. Magoon expertly navigates each heavy topic but doesn’t offer pat answers or solutions. Everything is kept vague enough to allow readers to draw their own conclusions, or simply wonder about what will happen to the characters in this beautiful little novel.
Highly recommended, especially for teens looking for a heavier contemporary YA this summer.
37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon. Henry Holt & Co.: 2012. Library copy.