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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Always and Forever by Karla Nellenbach

Mia's first reaction is outright disbelief. Obviously, a mistake has been made. Sixteen-year-old girls don't die. But, when the diagnosis is confirmed, she dives headlong into anger. If she has to die, why should it be of cancer? In fact, anything would be preferable to cancer. Better for her to say when, where, and especially how.

Determined to meet death on her own terms, Mia devises scheme after scheme to get the job done. A “fall” down the basement stairs, driving her car off a bridge, and even a dance with a train all end in her survival.

And through it all, Mia keeps her family and friends at arms' length with her destructive and hurtful behavior. With each failed suicide attempt and burned relationship, she slowly realizes that it’s not the dying that she’s afraid of, but the life she’ll be leaving behind. Now, that life is in a shambles. As time begins to slip through her fingers and death is upon her, Mia fights to rebuild the bridges she has destroyed, but can she do it before the clock runs out?

I'm a little torn up over what to say about this book because it had me going in many different directions. For the first quarter, everything made sense. I liked Mia, I thought her friends were hilarious, and boy did I want her and Kal to get together. The whole idea of a teenage girl getting cancer - after surviving a first round of an entirely different type was a unique set up. It was heart breaking and perfectly logical for her to want to keep the diagnosis to herself. Then Mia starts behaving a little irrationally. As it says in the summary, she keeps inventing ways to kill herself before the cancer does. At this point it was hard to put myself in Mia's shoes. Would I not want the cancer to kill me? Sure. But to throw yourself headfirst towards death seemed a bit selfish. She was taking away precious time that her family, friends and boyfriend had to be with her. Besides that, something seemed like it was missing. Fear. No where during her suicide attempts does Mia show any fear of death, and that seemed a little strange to me. 

I think with a topic like cancer, it's hard to know what a person would really be feeling, and therefore hard to capture what a person goes through unless you've been there yourself. You hear all these stories about the fighters, the ones who are always smiling, taking things as they come and not letting the disease get to them. Nellenbach even includes a character like this in the story. And I admit, I wanted Mia to be like that. Perhaps that's unfair, and certainly it's unrealistic. Who's to say how a person would feel when they're hit with the news that they're going to die (and not a pretty death)? A range of emotions is to be expected and anger is certainly one of them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when Mia began acting out her anger, I kept shaking my head, wanting her to get it together. I kept thinking, dang it Mia, you need these people. You're wasting precious time. Stop pushing everyone away! It's good when a story gets me yelling at it, but it's even better when it listens. *big grin* Without being too spoilery, let's just say that the last third of the book totally made up for the frustrations I was having. I zipped through the ending, not exactly smiling (because hello, cancer) but satisfied. And sobbing. Yes, you will need to arm yourself with a box of Kleenex's for this one. The final scene - whoa. Just whoa. So beautiful. 

The writing: Karla Nellenbach has a way with words. The descriptions and prose were beautiful. The dialogue was spot-on without trying too hard, and boy did I love this line: I don't have a pony in that race. I was grinning when I read that one. Nellenbach definitely has a pony in this race, and I look forward to her next book.




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