Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Title: Six Feet Over It
Author: Jennifer Longo
Publisher: Random House BYR
Release date: August 28th 2014
Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:
Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.
At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).
Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Six Feet Over It was completely different than I'd expected. I somehow missed the whole "sudden loss of her best friend" part of the synopsis; the only thing that registered was the unique setting and the humorous tone. Especially the title suggested this would be a funny, sarcastic, teenage-drama type of story. And while it definitely has those elements, Six Feet Over It is so much more than that. It is very much literary fiction, portraying dark topics in an honest and moving way. I loved everything about it!

Leigh's incredible voice is what carries the novel. She is such a dynamic character. She puts up a front of being strong, sarcastic, and cynical, and she has a great sense of humor. But over the course of the novel, we also get to see what's hidden behind the sarcasm. She is deeply troubled, and I felt for her so much during her darker moments. Her emotions are raw and honest, making parts of this novel heartbreaking to read. The character growth Leigh undergoes feels very real, and I loved being with her over the course of the story.

The secondary characters are just as great. I loved Leigh's sister, Kai, gravedigger Dario, and her friend Elanor. The only characters that I think could have used some more depth are Leigh's parents: I get that being absent is kind of what defines them, and I really enjoyed Leigh's astute criticism of them, but I still wish we had gotten some more insight into their backgrounds and motivations in order to understand why they act this way.

There are some parts of the plot that are a little bit too convenient and might come off as unrealistic, which would usually bother me. (Some details about Emily's death, for example, and where she is now.) But for some reason, I didn't mind - these scenes served their purpose, and Jennifer Longo's incredible writing and complex characters more than made up for it.

My only issue with the novel is the Spanish. There are many conversations in Six Feet Over It that take place in Spanish, and when it's such an important part of the novel, I really think it's important to do your research. The Spanish the characters use has a bunch of grammatical errors, and a ton of stuff literally translated from English that just doesn't work in Spanish. If this only applied to the Spanish Leigh speaks, that would make sense, since she's just learning. But it's the same with the other characters, whose first (or only) language is Spanish, so that didn't make sense. I know this isn't really that big a deal, but it just really bothers me when authors get foreign languages wrong - how hard can it be to find someone who is fluent in Spanish to proofread those scenes? Okay. Rant over.

Six Feet Over it is such an impressive debut. It's an excellently written, raw and honest story that will break your heart and put it back together again. (Sorry, cliched, I know. But it's totally true in this case.) I know these characters will stay with me for a long time. If you're a fan of literary YA, you should definitely pick this one up! I can't wait to read what Jennifer Longo writes next.


  1. This sounds really good. I'm not usually a fan of contemporary, unless the author is addressing something really important, and it sounds like this is my type of book. Adding it to my TBR list now.

    Amber @ Fall Into Books

  2. OMG. The Spanish rant! I am so right there with you. I think in all my years of reading, I've only found 1 or 2 authors who've managed to use correct Spanish. Which heinously sad, since there is such a huge population of Spanish-speakers in the US. I'm sure SOMEBODY could proofread it. (I would!)

    1. Exactly! It bothers me for any foreign language, but especially for Spanish because it is statistically impossible for the author not to know a single person in this country who speaks Spanish and could proofread their stuff. I really don't understand how so many books get this wrong.

  3. Hannah, thank you so much for this amazing, thoughtful review! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, that’s music to an author’s ears! And please believe me, I am right there with you on the language frustration in books, and I want to assure you, here’s how the Spanish went down in the writing of Six Feet Over It: I wrote it while living in a town with a 50/50 Mexican/Caucasian ethnicity split, so I was fortunate to have kind native Spanish-speaking friends either translate or actually write, every single word of Spanish dialogue in the book. I even had a guy helping me who was originally from the state of Michoacan and the city of Patzcuaro, amazingly enough and I was lucky enough to have people from La Paz and Oaxaca also help with the writing/translation. Then, in the copy editing phase, Random House editors who spoke fluent Spanish combed over every single word and sentence, corrected for grammar and slang usage, corrections I then checked against what the Spanish speakers I knew had to say, so that in the end there were about ten different native Spanish speakers and bi-lingual editors correcting and revising every word of Spanish dialogue in the book. I just wanted to make sure you know I would never, ever disrespect any language by not giving it the care and work it deserves, and neither would Random House. It’s their name on the book as well as mine. As I said, I totally get what you mean about frustrations when an English speaker is using a different language, and wherever pit falls occurred, I can assure you it was not in a lack of respect or work or care for the language by many people. Thank you again SO much for this wonderful review, I’m re-tweeting right now! I love your site ☺

    1. Thank you so much for explaining, Jen! I can't argue with that many native speakers - maybe the things I noticed were just regional differences, since I learned Spanish in Spain,


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