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Publishers Weekly Review
Four teenagers bond over grief and the possibility of finding something greater than themselves in France's compelling debut. Riley Strout, 16, belongs to the Back on Track club at her suburban Cleveland high school, reserved for kids who are floundering academically and personally. She and fellow club members-and best friends-Jay, Noah, and Kate have all lost close family members. Riley takes her mother's death especially hard because it followed a huge fight, after which she tweeted "Hate my mom." When Riley sees her dead mother in the grocery store, she is shocked; when Jay confesses that he saw his late father, too, the group knows something is up. It turns out that everyone except Noah has tried on a cross that once belonged to St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, who was known for his writings on spirits. France's transition from a story about teen sorrow to one focused on deciphering ancient symbols isn't always smooth, but her characters are sympathetic and believable, and her message about what keeps people moving forward after tragedy resonates deeply. Ages 14-up. Agent: Jennifer Unter, Unter Agency. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-In this story of loss, the afterlife, and the commingling of these worlds, listeners are introduced to the protagonist through the relic cross of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Riley Strout is a high school junior whose mother died in a car crash two years ago. Riley's last words to her mother were, "I hate you." Her grades have tanked, and she has been assigned to an after-school support group with Jay, Noah, and Kate, who have also lost interest in school after deaths in their families. Jay's father was a historian who found the missing cross of St. Ignatius. The relic cross is still on display at Jay's house. All members of the group but Noah have taken the cross out of its display and tried it on. Now they are catching glimpses of the spirits of those whom they lost. Riley is seeing her mother, Jay his father, and Kate her aunt. Through these glimpses into the spirit world, Riley stops blaming herself for her mother's death and can grieve her loss. Sandy Rustin delivers a convincing voice for Riley as the first-person narrator and appropriate voices for the other characters. -VERDICT This will be popular among teens hungry for answers about life, death, and the hereafter. ["The spiritual and historical elements are well balanced-not an afterthought and not overpowering in this very human story of letting go and moving on": SLJ 6/16 review of the Soho Teen book.]-Mary Lee Bulat, Harwinton Public Library, CT © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Riley, 16, is certain that her anger caused her mother's death. Plagued by guilt, she has grown close to three other students dealing with loss. Riley, Noah, Kate, and Jay often gather at Jay's house, where the supervision is low and the intrigue is high: his late father discovered a Jesuit relic, which is still in the house. After Riley, Kate, and Jay touch the relic, they gain the ability to see spirits occupying others, including the spirits of their lost relatives, which is by turns comforting and unsettling. Noah disappears in search of answers, diving into historical and religious research, while the other three struggle with what their abilities will mean for their loved ones' transition to the afterlife, and for themselves. This is an inventive concept part mystery, part supernatural, part spiritual meditation and the four friends are compassionately drawn, even in their flaws. Though the packaging may lead readers to expect more romance than they will find, the romantic thread remains, and it becomes important in Riley's growth as she processes her mother's death.--Booth, Heather Copyright 2016 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Sixteen-year-old Riley Strout and her three best friends are bound together by loss.Riley's mother died two years ago. Jay lost his father. Kate lost the aunt who was more like a mother. And Noah's twin brother hanged himself in the basement. Thrown together in an after-school grief-counseling program in their mostly white Ohio suburb, the foursome shares a bond so deep they are more family than friends. Yet none of them could have possibly imagined the strange happenings that would force them to come face to face with their grief. Twenty-four hours after trying on an ancient cross discovered by Jay's father before his death, Riley sees her mother in the grocery store. It's not long before both Jay and Kate confess to seeing their deceased loved ones, too. And then, in an attempt to explain the phenomenon tormenting his friends, Noah suddenly disappears. What follows is Riley's firsthand account of the friends' desperate attempt to find Noah and to uncover the truth behind their visions. Kudos to France for creating distinct and compelling characters that will keep readers invested in her debut. Though the plot could have withstood a little tightening to heighten suspense and intensify the experience for readers, this is an entertaining mystery cleverly rooted in religious lore.The Sixth Sense meets The Da Vinci Code for teen readers. (Paranormal suspense. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.