Julia is someone Amy idolizes. Julia is a cool person, always free and forever daring. Julia saves Amy a lot, from school- to family-related problems. Julia is always beside Amy, never making fun of Amy’s hair or height that are both too much to pass for ordinary. Julia is even beside Amy during those times when alcohol is all Amy sees and needs. Julia is Amy’s bestfriend.
Or at least, she was. Until a fateful car accident comes and all Amy can remember is how Julia couldn’t respond to anybody’s calling. Since then, Amy is made to live at a rehabilitation center. No, she’s not a depressed alcoholic. She’s just someone who needs help. So the rehab people say.
Amy doesn’t care. All she wants is to grieve and be away from alcohol, which she believes is–was–the tool she used in killing Julia. All Amy knows is what Julia’s mother said that day: that Amy is a murderer. So Amy endures the rehab’s know-it-alls, the sessions, and the medications.
But Amy is well now and the rehab has set her free. As if she is. As if she will ever be.
Amy returns to a place where Julia is nowhere to be seen, where her parents are suddenly taking notice of her being a vegetarian, where she’s a member of the honors’ classes, and where people are aware of her and Julia’s existence.
From all of this develops Elizabeth Scott’s story of being broken by death to pieces so seemingly irreconcilable that one can only dig in deeper to their hiding cubbyholes.
There is something unsettling in reading about death. Like the thing’s just around you, sniffing in, waiting to just get into your life. As if it would just spring out of the book’s pages, however freshly-smelling, and haunt your entire reality.
But what’s more unsettling is reading about someone cope with a dear’s death. There is a mixture of emotions in that kind of story. Of guilt over something you consider as more than a personal journey. Of feeling as if you are intruding into a closed territory barricaded with pretensions and withdrawals.
What I Liked
On top of everything, it’s Scott’s ability to let her readers directly into the mind and heart of her character. I have always had reservations with using the first person POV when writing. Don’t get me wrong, I use that style often, too. But I still think it’s too personal, something that won’t let one be in the know of all the angles of a story. However, Scott’s depiction of Amy is very artful. Amy’s character is not omniscient, she is not all-seeing. But she’s aware. So aware, in fact, that her readers get the feeling of being where Amy is at the moment.
I also like the feature of Amy’s letters to Julia, which are written more often than the usual storytelling of what happens to her daily. That particular inclusion is, for me, what makes the emotions more real. Amy’s character seemingly is at its most honest when she speaks to Julia, and that is what her letters provide the readers: a truthful admission of what Amy feels.
Another is the distinction of Laurie’s character. She’s Amy’s shrink, the one who regularly meets with Amy in attempt to help with recovery methods. Like in retention and maintenance of rehabilitation-learned techniques. Laurie is an intelligent addition to the story of mixed feelings, someone to make sense of everything confusing in Amy’s case. I like the matter-of-factly way she deals with Amy’s frustrations and the pen-clicking Amy so hates.
Lastly, I like the parallelism of Amy’s character with Patrick’s, the boy she loves but she doesn’t want to be with (out of fear). Patrick’s case is almost the same as Amy’s, save for the fact that–at least–Patrick’s father is still alive even after the stroke. There is a relieving sense of presence I feel along with Amy in those scenes she shares with Patrick.
What I Didn’t Like
And I’m going to say this from the reader’s side, ‘kay? For I write with the most unlikely of endings, too. Well, there, I’ve said it. As a reader, I think the novel could have done with a more elaborate ending. I feel the last chapters are hurriedly written. There are sudden realizations, as if they’ve just erupted out of an already lava-releasing volcano. There are conflicts that are given anti-climatic resolutions, as in Amy’s conflict with her parents.
I do understand that the story has something of a “during stage” element, like everything is simply telling of what happens while Amy is grieving. Like we can care less of what happens when Amy is already done with that stage. But somehow, for a conflict-ridden book, I wouldn’t want it to work that way.
What’s more, I didn’t like how it’s made clear that Amy is mad at Julia–for dying–and yet she’s not made to be mad at her friend for all those times she’s been let down. And all those times Julia didn’t say anything against Amy’s drinking. And all those other times Julia had taught Amy negative habits.
Ultimately and unsurprisingly, I didn’t like how the Amy-Patrick link is made to work. Amy only mentions! I mean, c’mon man, she’s told us more than that right?
Or maybe, that’s only because I am dying to know what happens next. Will Amy reconcile with her parents, making way for a resemblance of a happy family? Will Amy find a new bestfriend in the face of geeky, shy Caro? Will she and Patrick be in an official relationship? Will she be happy with him, finally? What’s next?
In Filipino, bitin is the word.
So in Entirety
I would’ve wanted a destination in something as dark a journey as Amy’s. Although I cannot change the occurrence of the opposite, of course.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t revere Scott’s work. It’s an awesome book of transparency. A no-nonsense growing up book people can use when they are at a loss.
Surely, Elizabeth Scott is a must-read. If only because she gets to be real.