Book Review: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Andy Cooper is dead, and Frenchie Garcia can’t seem to get over it.  Her friends weren’t aware of her massive crush on him, and they have absolutely no idea that she was the last person to hang out with him before he killed himself.  But the thing that Frenchie is most unable to come to grips with is how she unwittingly helped him die.  Frenchie’s obsession with death and Emily Dickinson make her somewhat of an outsider, and she feels more alienated from her friends than ever in the summer after senior year.  But when she meets Colin, she finds a way to recreate that night with Andy and answer her long-sought questions about what happened.

Jenny Torres Sanchez’s excellent novel is about growing up, growing apart, and coming to terms with life’s hardest lessons.  It tackles death, grief, loss, and much more with a sensitive approach, but the undercurrent of humor keeps the book from feeling too overwhelming for readers.  Expertly paced, vividly rendered, this is an excellent addition to any library or personal collection.

Frenchie is an authentically drawn character who is in complete limbo.  She’s stuck in the summer after senior year, and she’s grappling with the very real loss of her crush, Andy, as well as the gradual and more subtle loss of her best friend, Joel.  As the two drift apart, readers watch it happen and understand why it is–and possibly why it must.  Frenchie is both sullen and extremely anxious, and her preoccupation with death is intensified by her house’s close proximity to a cemetery.  All of this feels very real.

It helps that Torres Sanchez is a strong writer who moves her story seamlessly between the present and the night Frenchie spent with Andy.  These two stories unravel quickly enough to keep readers engaged but also slowly enough to keep them guessing.  There aren’t any easy answers for Frenchie, and Torres Sanchez doesn’t try to pander to her readers.

Memorable, thought-provoking, and a welcome addition to the YA cannon about death, grief, and loss.  This is worth your time.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez. Running Press Kids: 2013. Copy accepted for review via publisher for 2013 Cybils.

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