When Tess Fowler discovers that Jonah, her online boyfriend, is dead, she escapes her Quaker boarding school for her father’s home, where she finds him once again consumed by one of his harebrained schemes.
Whether it’s a fireworks-studded funeral for a beloved dog or a no-holds-barred celebration of a prizewinning racehorse, Tess’ father is the guy to call for alternative end-of-life celebrations. But even though she’s surrounded by funerals, the white teen still tries to hold on to Jonah. She haunts his Facebook page and emails him lists of things she is seeing without him. She knows he is dead and that it is just a matter of time before his page is taken down. Then one day she finds something online that changes everything. While Tess’ loss feels genuine, it is unclear why she has fallen so hard for someone she barely knows. References to her anxiety feel more spliced-in than organic to her character development. Tess’ self-destructive behavior—lying, hooking up with strangers, sexting, drinking, and drug use—has minimal consequences. Further, her unpredictability and lack of true self-awareness make her an unsympathetic and untrustworthy narrator. The attempt at tackling grief gets lost in a storm of bigger issues.
Meandering, ineffectual, and misdirected. (Fiction. 15-18)