Tackles suicide with lots of quoted poetry but without actually being poetic.
Sixteen-year-old Claire is taking photographs from the Lions Gate Bridge in her hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, when a handsome, young stranger jumps over the railing. Only Claire is near enough to hear him apologize as he hands her his phone and jumps. Seeing Will Szabo die by suicide sends Claire into a state of confusion and trauma. Claire begins to disengage from friends and family, so haunted by Will’s piercing blue eyes that she is driven to investigate his full story. Along the way, Claire befriends a cancer patient in hospice, spends time with a widow who speaks to ghosts, is counseled by a father whose young daughter drowned, and learns from a friend who engages in taxidermy. The plot flits through tarot and tea leaf readings, Kurt Cobain’s suicide note, Buddhist chants, as well as the question of whether life as a quadriplegic is worth living. First-time novelist Baugh approaches death with a series of thoughtfully researched vignettes, but picking through a stranger’s suicide allows for exhaustive exploration without breaching the surface of real loss and grief. The story is filled with convenient characters who quote poetry and provide philosophical approaches for Claire to consider. Most characters are white; Claire’s older sister has Down syndrome, and her boyfriend’s mother is bisexual.
You can’t shake the sense that your guidance
counselor assigned this. (Fiction. 13-16)