Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Hello? by Liza Wiemer
Hello? by Liza Wiemer
Spencer Hill Contemporary - Young Adult
If I hadn't skipped my Monday Malarkey post, you'd know that Hello? was the only book that arrived, last week. It was a pre-order and even though I know it wasn't all that long ago that it came up in discussion somewhere (Facebook?) I can't recall who brought it up or what convinced me to buy it. But man, am I glad I did.
In brief, Hello? is about relationships, trauma, love, angst. It's character-driven but the issues driving the characters are important.
Tricia's grandmother died 5 months ago, leaving her without any family. Gradually, her boyfriend Brian moved into the lighthouse with her. At first, it was helpful but his presence has become a burden; he's keeping her from healing. At the same time, Brian has grown weary of Tricia's grief.
When Brian abruptly leaves Tricia, saying he can't take anymore pain, Tricia considers suicide. As she picks up the phone and calls her grandmother's cell number, Tricia entertains the thought that maybe her grandmother will answer and tell her everything's all right. But, instead, Emerson answers and they talk openly, as strangers, about their lives. Emerson went through something a five-year-old should never experience, 13 years ago, so he understands grief.
WARNING: This review contains potential spoilers. I don't give up the ending of the book (except in a part that must be highlighted to view it) but there are some plot points mentioned. If you're afraid I'll ruin the book for you, please skip down below the END WARNING line.
Tricia convinces Emerson to end his toxic relationship and Emerson talks Tricia into putting the gun away for good. But, Tricia doesn't want to rely on Emerson and asks him to change his phone number so she won't keep calling him. Will Tricia and Emerson ever talk to each other again?
Angie knows that sex shouldn't dominate her relationship with Emerson but she's unable to pull away. Then, Emerson breaks up with her in a very public place. Someone films the temper tantrum that follows and turns the video into a misleading gif that gets passed around. Now, everyone is mad at Emerson and Angie has run to Jordan, the guy she really cares for but who confused her, long ago. Her best friend Brenda adds another complication when Emerson mentions that he assumes Brenda is gay. Has she wanted more from Angie, all this time?
Brenda has never had a boyfriend but she's never been able to share why. Now that her best friend has confronted her with an unexpected question, she realizes that she must face up to the horror of what happened to her, long ago. When Brenda finally takes action, what will happen? Will she be able to heal and move past the pain?
Tricia, Brian, Emerson, Brenda, and Angie all have been traumatized in some way, and therein may lie one of only two flaws in this book. It seems like a stretch that so many connected individuals could have all experienced tragedy and horror by 18. The only other flaw I found was the fact that . . . eh, maybe this is a spoiler - highlight to see, if you're willing, just in case: they all gather together in the end. The ending felt a little deus ex machina. And, yet it also didn't. It felt right in its own way.
Hello? is told through multiple viewpoints and it can be a huge challenge for an author to make each individual sound unique, to keep them easily distinguishable. So, she gave them talents and used them to express their individuality. Brian is an artist who creates beautiful works of pottery. Angie is a poet. Brenda plans to become a screenwriter. When the story is being told through Brian's POV, occasionally a sketch of pottery will appear. Angie tells her tale through poetry (free verse). Brenda's scenes are done in screenplay format. Those little touches help distinguish between viewpoints and lend the book a uniqueness.
Highly recommended - Seriously. Could. Not. Put. Down. So many questions to be answered, threads to be untangled, lives to set on track. I liked the fact that the author put so many characters through the mill and made them grow to the point that each was coping, by the end. It may have felt a little too convenient, in a way, (and the new relationships a little too perfect) but the story was skillfully done. Also, very cool, Emerson is named after the poet and there are Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes at the beginning of every chapter.
I really loved this book. The author not only tackled some serious issues, but also followed up with contact numbers and explained a bit about her own experience at the end of the book.
I also liked the fact that the characters managed to figure out sex is . . . I want to say "sacred" but that's not her wording. It's more like she was trying to explain how and why it can be used in a bad way but doesn't need to be. Sometimes it's better to take things slowly, in other words, and sometimes the timing is completely inappropriate but, bottom line, use care when taking that step. There's a lot of food for thought. In fact, I think Hello? would make a pretty terrific discussion book for a teen book club or a parent/teen club.
If your name is Chris, you've been my blogging buddy for eons and you live in New Orleans, please don't buy yourself a copy of this book. I'm sending you a copy for Christmas. You know who you are (she says, hoping to quickly bury the review so he won't see it).
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