Everyone expected that cancer would end Sarah’s life, not a fall to the sea from a foggy cliffside path in Marin County.
Rachel is mute at Sarah’s memorial service; Asha shows up late and inebriated, with a new tattoo. Their longstanding sibling dysfunction has multiple causes: birth order, illness, parental choices. Cancer made Sarah the center of family life; a bone-marrow match for Sarah made Asha a player in the drama, more valuable than Rachel. Raised by long-estranged parents on a commune, the sisters now live with their absent, indifferent mother and rarely see their father. Asha and Rachel struggle through each day alone and replay old battles when together. Drowning in grief, Asha depends on her friend, Sin, while fantasizing about his older brother. Rachel’s string of boyfriends hasn’t softened her anger, but Krishna, who introduces her to meditation, just might. Limned in sharp detail, the unchangeable, almost unendurable past overwhelms the story’s gentler elements. From the afterlife, Sarah offers ruefully elegiac comments on her former life and hints of secrets to come, but they have little urgency. An important plot thread is unaccountably abandoned at the climax, darkening the story and leaving characters without the optimistic energy and sense of agency typically found in literature for teens.
A haunting, dark and at times harshly beautiful exploration of the scars left by hurt and loss. (Paranormal suspense. 14 & up)