Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo (2014)

I just finished reading this book.  It took me longer than usual (to read this book.)  I reluctantly give it 4/5 stars.  It really is a well-written view of grief from a teen’s perspective, but it was somewhat difficult to really get into.  I liked that premise that Leigh’s family has moved to a cemetery, and that Leigh’s father has pretty much given her no choice but to work the office.  Her older sister cannot because her cancer is in remission and she is all into running now.  No time (and the cancer thing) for working the cemetery’s office and selling plots and stones.  Their mother seems entirely disconnected from her family because she misses the ocean, and recovering from her older daughter recovering from cancer.   It takes a while to get to the fact that it is Leigh’s best friend who had died in an accident months before.

I found myself frustrated with Leigh.  She is depressed most of the book, which is understandable, but what I don’t understand is why she can’t be friends with a girl she meets after Emily’s death.  She is afraid of replacing Emily, but she is outright mean at times to Elanor.  Leigh also just exists on one special (to her) kind of candy. . .  and loses all sorts of weight.  I feel I am very empathetic, but here’s the deal:  For me, in grief, I eat.  I eat my feelings. I ate like crazy after my first son died (entire large packages of cookies in one sitting kind of eating.)  So trying to understand Leigh’s lack of appetite is admittedly difficult.

I lived for six years as a child next to a cemetery, and I loved it. It was not a scary place at all.

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce  –  This is the first novel by Ms. Bryce who live in the UK.   

The main character, Megan, has some kind of brain cancer (it’s not revealed right away) and the novel opens with Megan’s arrival on the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital.  She does not care for this because, after all, she is almost fourteen.   There are elephants on the curtains!  Her elderly grandfather (he is 95) assures her that this is more “fun” then being with old grumpy adults.  There is only one other teen with cancer in their wing, and they are friends of sorts.  His name is in the title: Jackson.   He is quite outgoing, and Megan wants him to be wrong when he informs her that he friends will not visit.  He was not wrong.  
Anyway, I need to do a bit of comparison to similar books (books about teens with cancer) I have read over the years.   To do that, the comparison can be summed up with the following:  It is better than Lurlene McDaniel’s books (example: Six Months to Live), but not as good as John Green‘s The Fault in Our Stars.  I have read most of McDaniel’s books, just to note – and many of them when I was twelve and thirteen years old.  And just to note an even older book in this type of genre  that I read at age 12 or so, I think I like Waiting for Johnny Miracle by Alice Bach more than this book in some ways. (The characters seem more developed for one thing.)
 I suppose part of my complaint is that the reader does not get to really know Megan very well.  There is an air of detachment, to be honest, and throughout the entire book.   As I read, I started to understand that Megan is trapping her feelings and thoughts in herself, and talking to no one, but it is difficult to see this at first.   The remainder of the characters remain relatively undeveloped.  Jackson himself comes partially “alive” as a character, but even with him, as the title character, I expected to get to know him a little more.   Once again, there was a feeling of distance.
This book is definitely for young middle grade readers – ages 9 to 12 or so.  I personally would have liked this book at ages eight or nine – I loved Angie and Me at age 8, for instance.  (Here is my blog post on that book from 2008.) 
Date Published: January 2013 in Great Britain; April 2013 in USA– by Bloomsbury.

Date I First Read Book: October 2013

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief a memoir by Ann Hood (2008)

“Grief is not linear. People keep telling me that once this happened or that passed, everything would be better. Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. One day you are acting almost like a normal person. You maybe even manage to take a shower. Your clothes match. You think the autumn leaves look pretty, or enjoy the sound of snow crunching under your feet.

Then a song, a glimpse of something, or maybe even nothing sends you back into the hole of grief. It is not one step forward, two steps back. It is a jumble. It is hours that are all right, and weeks that aren’t. Or it is good days and bad days. Or it is the weight of sadness making you look different to others and nothing helps. Not haircuts or manicures or the Atkins diet.

Writing about Grace, losing her, loving her, anything at all, is not linear either. . . Grief doesn’t have a plot. It isn’t smooth. There is no beginning and middle and end” (52-3).

This a very small, short book, but oh, so heavy. I could not put it down! I saw it a week or two ago on the new nonfiction shelf at one of the branch libraries, and I just knew I had to check it out.

I learned from this book that not only do older people sometimes die of a virulent strep infection, but supposedly otherwise healthy five year old children. I knew when I started this book what would happen. It says so on the book flap.

Ann Hood arrived one day in April of 2002 to pick up her 5 year old (whom she’d had at age 39) daughter Grace from ballet class, and the teacher told her that her daughter had possibly broken her arm. So they go to the ER, where they said yes, it was broken, and that the pediatric orthopedist might want to do surgery, but that is could wait a few days. Grace started running a fever, but her pediatrition wasn’t that concerned. However, Ann was concerned and took Grace back to the ER, where they still didn’t think anything serious was going on. Two days later, after surgery and intubation, Grace died in her parents’ arms, while they are singing her Beatles’ song, Grace’s favorite music.

This book is about Ann’s grief, and how she deals with it. How she deals with it differently from her husband (Lorne). How their son (Sam!) deals with it. How Ann could finally deal with sorting through Grace’s things. How she could not tolerate the song “Amazing Grace” anymore. How she gave up her love affair with the Beatles, because all things Beatles reminded her of Grace. How they missed having a little girl, but found, now in their 40s, that they could no longer conceive, even with IVF. How they adopted a baby from China. Annabelle did not, could not, replace Grace, but she brought hope and laughter back into their lives.