A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
SUMMARY: Cass and Julia had been best friends since they were kids; even Julia discovering her theatrical destiny at drama camp and getting a boyfriend hadn't changed that. Throughout their junior year, Julia claimed to be at work on a secret project. But before she could reveal it to Cass or her drama club friends, Julia was killed in a car accident. Still reeling from the unexpected tragedy, they discover that the secret project was in fact a musical titled "Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squads" and led by Julia's devastated boyfriend Oliver, the group decides to make Julia's dream come true by producing the musical. But Cass has never felt like she truly fit in with Julia's theater crowd. And she doesn't think she can take a summer of painting sets and hearing Julia in every line of the play. Especially when Heather, the girl who bullied her in middle school, has somehow been cast in the lead role. So, Cass sets out to undertake the cross-country trip she and Julia had planned--alone on her touring bike with Julia's ashes in tow. When Cass returns in August, she realizes that she's changed in big ways. But then so has Heather. But through all the drama, the show must go on.
ONESMARTCUPCAKE THINKS: This book has been on my 'to read' list for quite some time. The title intrigued me and then seeing that it could work towards my Debut Authors Challenge pushed it way up on my list. Overall, I enjoyed A Love Story. The novel is divided into two distinct alternating settings: the recent past of Cass' bike journey and the current events since her return. While I normally don't mind such a format, I felt it worked less effectively in this novel. Although both sections were significant in exploring Cass's development through the course of the story, the shifts between them occasionally felt awkward and sudden. However, I did enjoy the gradual revelations about Cass's growth as the two portions of the story played out simultaneously. The concept of a solo cross country trip on a bike is a bit of a unique take on the classic road trip story and Horner utilizes details about this style of the travel to tie the reader into Cass's experience more closely. Also, the solo and self-reliant aspects of biking allows for an extra emphasis on self-discovery and reflection on Cass's part. The obvious connection between Cass' physical actions and her emotional journey shines strongly with the more transparently physical bike as well.
I liked that Cass's process of understanding and embracing her sexuality worked hand in hand with her coming to terms with Julia's death. The difficulties of grief and identity development are interconnected in the story of Cass' entrance to the complex adult world. I also enjoyed the romance between Cass and Heather. Their rehabilitated friendship blossoms into a new chance at a happy, open relationship for each girl. Also, their contrasting pasts reveal two different but equally challenging paths to self-acceptance.
Overall, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend was an enjoyable and touching read about the sometimes painful process of growing up.