February 10, 2015

Best Friends Through Eternity

by Sylvia McNicoll
Tundra Books
192 pp.
Ages 12+
For release February 10, 2015

Most of us dream of the opportunity for a do-over after we've messed up something big.  The regret and/or guilt can be overwhelming.  But what if a do-over was possible but you'd have to be careful not to make matters worse.  Would you do it?  What if you thought you had nothing to lose because you were already dead?

Fourteen-year-old Paige Barta is willing to take that chance after she is killed by a train walking home from school, believing she should have been trying to help her best friend Jasmine (Jazz).  Jazz had been off with her new boyfriend, Cameron, unaware that Cameron's ex, the vicious Vanessa, was plotting an attack. Angrily taking off when she should have been waiting for Jazz,  Paige finds herself laying in a hospital bed, unconscious and dying.  But meeting up on an after-life beach with a childhood friend, Kim, who'd been adopted from China as was Paige, gives the teen the chance for a retake of the past week.

So now Paige has to rethink everything she has said and done, knowing this is her chance to make things right, without letting on that she's going to die or that she knows about the future attack on Jazz.  However, Paige is also rethinking her attitudes about her adoption, about her parents, about Kim's death of which she'd been unaware, about the friendly Max Liu, and even about her food choices.  Being given the chance to make different choices, however, doesn't mean those choices are necessarily better, and Paige learns that sometimes, no matter what, you can't control everything.

Though life-and-death do-overs (is there an actual term for this?) have been popularized in movies and in TV shows, it's a tough one to do well in text, especially for young people for whom the idea of death is often completely unimaginable.  Sylvia McNicoll has shown that she has a knack for writing great teen voices and a strong record for bringing the issue of death into the realm of youth, having made it a focus in books such as crush.candy.corpse (Lorimer, 2012), Dying to Go Viral (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2013) and Revenge on the Fly (Pajama Press, 2014). But the focus is not on the morbid but the life lead and the choices made for purposeful lives. Although Paige is shocked to learn she is dying and that Kim has died and that others may die as a result of her actions, her focus remains on choices made with compassion rather than anger and bitterness.  It's a lesson we could all learn.  Too bad Paige–and probably everyone who has ever lived–doesn't learn this lesson until it's too late.  Fortunately, in Best Friends Through EternitySylvia McNicoll gives Paige another chance to show us how it's done.

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If you get the chance, check out the book launch for Best Friends Through Eternity, this weekend in Burlington, Ontario. Sylvia McNicoll puts on a great book launch!

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