If Only by Carole Geithner
If Only is a book I saw on the goodreads give away list and signed up for kind of expecting to blast it. It’s young adult fiction about grief and for some reason I expected it to be platitudes and a lot of “fake it till you make it” sort of advice disguised as fiction. I am happy to announce that I was wrong. This is not a story only to communicate a cheerful moral… not at all. In fact I will probably buy multiple copies of it. It goes on my very short list of quite helpful resources for dealing with grief, death and the pain of negotiating life “after death.” Not “after death” as in eternity but after experiencing the death of someone close.
Corinna is a “normal” middle schooler with all of the anxieties, stressors, confusions and drama except that she isn’t anymore. The whole “highlight of my summer” thing was brutal for her, because over the summer she lost her mother. The story takes the reader through Corinna’s school year in 8th grade. It is helpful to see through the eyes of a young teen during grief. As Corinna struggles to do life and relate to her friends grief hits her in waves.
I would hand this book to a lot of different people. I would give it to adults who have a child in their life going through grief. I would give it to middle and high school students who have a friend going through grief. It is a snapshot into what is and isn’t helpful. Although that differs for each person, I think this book could help teach a young teen especially how to be loving and caring toward a peer dealing with loss. It could be powerfully encouraging for a teen dealing with loss if it was presented gently and timed well.
One of the powerful strengths of Geithner’s story is normalizing teenage responses to death. Corinna eventually interacts with peers who have lost someone. A factor that eases some of her isolation is hearing them say that they have similar fears, emotions and confusion. Instead of thinking that she is crazy she can then understand that her circumstances are the difference between her and most of her peers instead of it just being her.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I want to tell all the pastors, counselors, therapists, teachers and parents I know about it. Geithner did a spectacular job of dealing with a painful and hard issue without making it an extremely heavy book to read. If you have teenagers in your life, read this book! I have never read anything that expresses so well the unique way tragedy and death hit at that crucial age.
I am thankful to goodreads for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Disclaimer: some of the coming of age elements are not necessarily a perspective I recommend. It also includes a lot of girl talk.