________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 5. . . .October 2, 2015


When Kacey Left.

Dawn Green.
Markham, ON: Red Deer Press, 2015.
227 pp., trade pbk., ePub, Mobi & Web PDF, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-088995-523-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55244-338-5 (ePub), ISBN 978-1-55244-375-0 (Mobi), ISBN 978-1-55244-339-2 (Web PDF).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Karen Boyd.

** /4



When you left, I became obsessed with you. Okay, I don’t know if obsessed is what you’d call it—you probably would—but I have something to confess…I’ve been watching you—a lot. Sometimes I spend hours in my room just scrolling though my phone at old pictures and videos we took together. I can’t stop. I’ve tried but it’s like an addiction. My mom won’t let me have my phone at dinner, and sometimes I just sit at the table, thinking about running back up to my room…to be with you.


Sara, 16, is struggling to deal with the loss of her best friend, Kacey, through suicide. Sara’s parents have sent her to the OC (obnoxious counselor) who is making her write to Kacey in a journal. The journal documents Sara’s struggles over the first year without Kacey as she tries to find a new normal.

internal art     Dawn Green has addressed an important topic in When Kacey Left. She is careful not to come to any particular neat ending and doesn’t provide a definitive reason that Kacey may have killed herself. Sara is a portrayed as a typical teen who was very focused on herself and may not have recognized the struggles with depression that Kacey was dealing with for months before the incident. Throughout the book, Sara reflects on moments, texts, and conversations while she seeks to understand.

     While I understand the appeal of the journal format, I don’t think it works for this story. Green was careful not to provide too much background information that Sara would not record in her journal, but the format means that many of the experiences that are important to the story cannot be authentically documented as journal entries. In several instances, Green resorts to a script format:

Baker: I’m sorry you got suspended. I think they were a little harsh with you.

Me: (shrugging) I probably deserved it. I did swear at Mr. Kline.

     I’m not sure that a character would document an event this way. While the information is important to moving the story along and understanding the characters, it just doesn’t work very well in a journal format. Sara also begins the journal by saying that the counselor had asked her to start each entry with “When you left…” but, by page 35, that ends, and Sara is told she can write the entries any way that she wants. I’m unclear as to whether this was a conscious plot device to suggest a moment of transition or if the structure just became too confining. A first-person narrative would have been considerably less distracting to the story than the journal.

     Sara’s story is an important one to tell. The emotions of guilt, anger, confusion, and acceptance are documented for young adults to read and think about. Green also includes a resource package about suicide that includes information and provincial links to helpful organizations. For this alone I would recommend this book. Any book that young readers have to read about issues around mental health, depression, and suicide in an informed way and contributes to opportunities for discussion and learning is a valuable addition to a library or bookshelf.


Dr. Karen Boyd is Assistant Superintendent- Educational Programming with the River East Transcona School Division in Winnipeg, MB, and a former sessional lecturer in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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