CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 30. . . .April 14, 2017
It’s just a normal Tuesday when 16-year-old Kai finds three handwritten letters from her older sister in the mail. When she opens her letter, she discovers that it’s a goodbye note from her sister, apologizing for not being able to go on living. From that moment on, Kai’s life is turned upside down. Kai copes by drinking excessively and taking pills. It’s only when her parents send her a camp for grieving teens that Kai begins to understand how to go on living after a tragedy.
Author Kim Turrisi’s debut YA novel offers readers a personal look at the impact of suicide on a family. Kai’s mother busies herself planning the funeral of the century, and her father tries to approach everything with a business-like efficiency. Both are so consumed with their own grief that neither of them notices Kai’s downward spiral. Her sister was everything to her. She was the person Kai relied on to give her advice on handling parents, boys and friends, and suddenly that support disappeared with nothing to replace it. Kai does have support in the form of her two best friends TJ and Emily, but neither of them knows what to do to help her. Kai’s voice feels authentic and true-to-life and reflects the author’s own experience in dealing with grief. TJ and Emily are less well-developed but act as a life-line for Kai both in and outside of the grief camp.
When the action shifts to the camp, the story becomes more raw but hopeful. The group therapy sessions force Kai to acknowledge her anger at her sister for leaving and at her parents for not being there to support her. It’s only in learning about the experiences of the other teens in her therapy group that Kai comes to understand that her sister’s suicide is not something that was “done” to her but is an act that has deeply affected both her and her family. The camp shows Kai that she’s not alone in her feelings, and gradually she is able to come to terms with her grief and learn how to put her life back together.
Where the story fails is when it veers into romance. While it is understandable that the teens in the group would form a close bond, the romance between her and another member of her group felt inserted and rushed. With all of the other challenges that she and the other campers were facing, romantically pairing off the characters was unnecessary and didn’t contribute anything to the bigger story.
Despite this flaw, Just a Normal Tuesday is a book that will resonate with teens, and it is an honest, and gut-wrenching story of death, grief and healing.
Rachel Seigel is a freelance writer and author of titles in the “Canadian Aboriginal Communities” series.
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