It can’t be easy to have a gorgeous, popular, confident older sister. Especially in high school. Especially when she’s also a star cheerleader and has such an epic romance that she’s been Brangelina’d with her own couple name.
But what’s harder is when she dies, still in the grips of those very elements that feasted on her and nurtured her.
Sabine’s death hit younger sister Brady hard. They are “Irish twins,” born scarcely a year apart, and Brady made peace (somewhat) with Sabine’s light outshining hers. She tells us, point blank, that she never wished her sister dead, and we believe her. Sabine wouldn’t talk to her if Brady felt otherwise, right?
Yes, Sabine communicates with her living sister. Brady is convinced. When she feels insecure or confused, Brady swears she hears Sabine tell her what to do. So does Connor. The boy who many think killed Sabine.
We’ll get to Connor in a bit.
Brady is like a somnambulist; she sleepwalks through her days, barely putting in time in class. College? Maybe. A romance of her own? Unlikely.
Her parents’ marriage, which was struggling to overcome infidelity prior to Sabine’s death, seems even more hollow, more disjointed. And Martha, one of Sabine’s closest friends and also a friend Brady holds dear, seems to be on her way to installing herself in Sabine’s old life.
Is it any wonder that Brady doesn’t want to fully wake up and face the life she has to live now, one without Sabine?
Oh, Sabine was not perfect, not by any stretch. That’s one of the strengths of this book; we get to see Sabine’s flaws, her sort of wickedness that few acknowledged, if they even realized it existed.
One person who does know the real Sabine is Connor, the town pariah. Brady’s parents hate him, her classmates hate him, everyone seems to hate him. He’s nothing more than a pothead whose stoned out lack of attention caused Sabine to die. At least that’s the party line. As Brady comes to discover, though, there is more to Connor than she assumed, and perhaps there was more to Sabine’s death.
There are so many rich nuances here that it’s impossible to cover them all. Each character is an attempt to defy a stereotype, and most do. Martha is hilarious, albeit unintentionally so. You will want to hate her, except you just can’t. Nick, Sabine’s ex boyfriend, is easier to loathe, unless you are far removed from high school and can see him for the damaged, spoiled child he really is.
Brady, who tells us the story, is utterly and completely adorable, and when she begins to befriend Connor, you hope her faith is not misplaced. She loved her sister – loves her still – and she wants to understand Sabine’s mysteries and realities.
I’ll admit that I cried a few times while reading this, largely because I liked Brady so much and wanted her to be happy. When a wealthy art patron takes an interest in her, I was relieved that someone could appreciate her separately from Sabine.
This book is going in my high school English classroom library because I know my students will revel in it as much as I did.