Art helps two teenagers cope with unbearable sorrow in this novel of loss and self-discovery.
After bumping into each other in the woods and then again in their D.C. high school, Damon, a black photographer, and Melanie, a white painter, find themselves drawn together by grief. Damon is haunted by the suicide of his best friend Carlos and his lingering doubt about how well he knew him, while Melanie feels lost after her mother—a talented artist—succumbs to cancer. Agreeing to participate in their school’s production of Othello helps them forge a relationship and begin the journey toward healing. Parallels between the teens and their larger-than-life loved ones are clear, as Melanie fears she is not the painter her mother was, while Damon uses Carlos’ camera to metaphorically freeze moments in time. Debut author Belasco adeptly captures the tribulations of high school life while also celebrating art’s ability to help clarify and contextualize its joys and sorrows. The dual narration seamlessly transitions between the protagonists’ reminiscences and the present, creating portraits of Carlos and Melanie’s mother that are as richly detailed as those of the main characters. The novel’s most intriguing character, however, is grief itself, which the author illuminates, examines, and dissects with a surgeon’s precision and the gentle touch of an artist.
A stirring account of the trials of adolescence. (Fiction. 12-18)