Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Title: Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia
Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Release date: May 28th 2013
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Publisher (I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!)
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Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends didn’t know she had a crush him. And they don’t know she was the last person with him before he committed suicide. But Frenchie’s biggest concern is how she blindly helped him die that night.
Frenchie’s already insane obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My expectations for Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia were not exactly high - it's a small-press title, and the story sounded like the typical grief plot, something I enjoy but have read a million times before. That's why I was so surprised when I got into the novel - the main idea may be pretty standard, but the characters and subplots are unique and make this a great novel.

Frenchie is what made this whole book work for me. She's not your average YA "heroine" - she's messed up in the best way possible. She's depressed and angry, but instead of sulking about it in the standard annoying emotional way, she lashes out at the people around her and messes up the relationships most important to her. While that doesn't exactly sound like a good thing, it provided for a fascinating plot and was a nice change from the standard grief storyline. I enjoyed reading about her struggles through her actions instead of her words. And while Frenchie would be hard to like in real life, I loved being inside her head and really felt for her.

Frenchie's relationships with other people are just as unique and interesting to read about. There's Joel, Frenchie's best guy friend, whom she's been having problems with ever since he started spending more time with his new girlfriend Lily than with her. At first, I feared this would venture into the typical MC-is-in-love-with-her-best-friend storyline, but I'm so glad it doesn't: Frenchie isn't jealous of Lily because she likes Joel as more than a friend; she simply wants her friend back. I love that the way this guy-girl-friendship is treated in the novel, a topic much too rare in YA. I also loved Frenchie's relationship with Robyn, her best girl friend, which is unconventional in its own way. And Frenchie's relationship with Colin is just as great: I love how their romance is only hinted at and does not take the main focus.

This present storyline of Frenchie's relationships with Joel, Robyn, and Colin is interspersed with what happened during her night of adventures with Andy. Frenchie's and Andy's - and then Frenchie's and Colin's - "adventures" that night are pretty basic: the standard teenage rebellion of getting a tattoo, breaking into a park, and staying out all night. But the mystery around Andy's suicide made it worthwhile - I loved trying to figure it all out alongside Frenchie.

One thing I wish had been elaborated on more is Frenchie's future. Frenchie just graduated from high school, did not get into the art school she wanted to go to, and has no plans for the future. While I get that not having plans is sort of the point, and that the story only presents a very short span of her life, I wish we could have seen some more development of Frenchie's character in terms of making some sort of decision for the future.

Even though I was a little disappointed by the lack of development towards the end of the novel, I really loved Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia. With an original voice, unique characters, an intriguing mystery, and palpable emotions, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is a novel I really enjoyed.


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