<b>Understanding a sister’s suicide</b> For 16-year-old Leila Abranel, dyslexia is both a curse and a blessing. Sure, she has to struggle to finish reading a novel and to remember the difference between right and left. But her dyslexia also forces Leila to slow down, to take her time, to ask questions before making decisions: Dyslexia has taught me that clarity comes only through effort, patience, and help from those who know how to give it. When Leila’s older sister Rebecca commits suicide, Leila is convinced that she can use that effort and patience to discover why, to answer the many questions that arise after her sister’s death, to finally get to know her family’s long and complicated history. She starts by moving in with her other sister Clare, who, like Rebecca, is more than 20 years older than Leila. The two sisters progress from almost-strangers to almost-friends as they cope with Rebecca’s death in different ways.
As part of her quest to discover the truth about Rebecca’s suicide, Leila gets a part-time job at a cafe Rebecca frequented just before her death. In between serving up cappuccinos, Leila gets to know Eamon, a fascinating older man, who, when he learns Leila’s true age, decides that they should remain just friends in spite of their mutual attraction. As Leila learns that the story that matters might not be the one leading up to Rebecca’s death but the one that is still happening, she also comes to realize that love creeps in despite our best intentions.
Garret Freymann-Weyr, whose previous novels include the Printz Honor winner <i>My Heartbeat</i> (2002), has created in Leila an unusually reflective and insightful protagonist. Unlike many young adult heroines, Leila is less interested in clothes and cliques than in finding meaningful work and really understanding herself and her world. Partly because she associates mostly with adults, Leila exhibits a maturity and wisdom far beyond her literary peers, and her compelling voice encourages a similar level of thoughtfulness from her readers, who will be rewarded with a deeply perceptive study of a family caught in the aftermath of tragedy. <i>Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area.</i>