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cinque-terre-1596206_1920Initial thoughts: I was so excited to receive this book in the mail. I had been entering Goodreads giveaways for over a month and I hadn’t won a single book. I figured that maybe I wasn’t active enough on Goodreads to win. Then out of nowhere, I won! There is something about winning a free book that hasn’t been released yet that makes me giddy with excitement.

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she’d told she loved and the first boy to say it back.

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

The Review

As soon as I received Things I’m Seeing Without You in the mail, I had packed and left for a long vacation. I should probably start off by mentioning that this isn’t the sort of book that most people would want to read on vacation. A book about death and grief doesn’t really go well with relaxing on a beach and forgetting your troubles. Even so, I decided to read it anyway because I loved the idea of reading a book that hadn’t been released yet.

Most of the time, I tend to avoid books with serious subjects such as mental illness and suicide. It is not that I can’t handle reading these sorts of books. Rather, these subjects tend to bring me down. For instance, when I read A Monster Calls by: Patrick Ness, I was bawling my eyes out when I got to the end. For me, books are not just words on a page. If they are well-written, the author can make me feel whatever he/she intends for me to feel. I’m really just an overly sensitive guinea pig at my core.

When Tess Fowler learns that her boyfriend, Jonah, has committed suicide, her life spirals out of control. Suddenly, she drops out of high school and finds herself living in her estranged father’s home. Unsure of where to turn, Tess begins to write to Jonah and describes to him the “Things I’m Seeing Without You.” Meanwhile, Tess’s father decides to embark on a new business venture, an alternative funeral service. By helping her father plan an outlandish funeral for prized racehorse, and a burlesque funeral, Tess  begins to understand how to move on from grief.

In spite of being a story with such a heavy subject matter, Things I’m Seeing Without You managed to make me laugh. In the midst of her grief, Tess’s father decides to become an alternative funeral planner. What does this mean exactly? Well, basically think of planning the craziest funerals in the craziest locations imaginable. By planning funerals, Tess tries to work through her grief, which is easier said than done.

This book made me think a lot about my first year of university when I began to get to know this guy through texting. I thought that we knew each other very well, but the few times we saw each other face to face, it was as if we were complete strangers who didn’t know what to say to each other. In a world where technology has become a window through which we communicate, can we get to know someone without seeing them face to face? Things I’m Seeing Without You explores this question through Tess’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Jonah. This sort of makes me think of this quote from Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:

Is it possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”     – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami

I would recommend this book to young adults who enjoy books along the lines of Thirteen Reasons Why by: Jay Asher.

Final Rating:


About the Book

Title: Things I'm Seeing Without You
Author: Peter Bognanni 
Series: N/A
Published: 2017 (October 3rd)
Subjects & Genres: young adult, fiction, contemporary, mental illness, suicide, grief

Until Next Time,