A story about processing grief takes a different turn when painful experiences bring two teens together in Sonia Belasco’s profound debut.
Summer deals a severe blow to Damon Lewis and Melanie Ellis. Damon loses Carlos, his best friend, to suicide, while Melanie loses her mother to cancer. Both live in the shadow of loss, keeping their feelings guarded, but neither knows the other exists. Their hard emotional shells begin to crack when Damon takes a picture of a grieving Melanie at a local park. This awkward moment leads Damon to give her a picture of Carlos. Soon a romance blossoms between them, but friction develops when Damon blocks Melanie from his deepest pain.
Ten years in the making and inspired by a traumatic event in the author’s own life, Belasco’s novel sends a powerful message about the complicated nature of grief. Speak of Me as I Am teems with raw emotion as the dual first-person narratives center on Damon and Melanie’s personal struggles and their relationship. As chapters shift back and forth between the two protagonists, Belasco weaves in a third character. Tristan, who is best friends with Melanie, is a charismatic and confident gay teen, and he immediately connects with Damon. The deep ties between these three friends play a crucial role in the development of the young lovers and provides refreshing twists to Belasco’s gut-wrenching plot.
This powerful, emotional work should be earmarked to be a favorite with teen readers.