Moving On:: Wherever You Go by Heather Davis
You feel an ache in your heart.
You don't know about the crash, Aldo? Well, Holly--she was in the car with me.... I thought they would have told you."
"They don't tell you shit when you're like this, kid." Aldo lets out a sigh.
"Obviously, she survived," you say.
Aldo's eyes take on a glassy look, like he's about to cry.
"After her grandma died, I didn't see Holly very much," Aldo says. "This coming to be with her, with Julia and little Lena, it's a gift. A half-given gift, but a gift nonetheless. I know you want to get out of here, but did you ever think that maybe this time given to you is the same? It's kind of a second chance, even if it's not ideal."
Rob's state is not ideal. He's dead, a ghost since the fatal car crash in which he died, a restless spirit forced to watch those he left behind but unable to communicate or help them recover from their grief and unable himself to move on "through the light" into any kind of peace. His girlfriend Holly is also stuck in limbo, still in love with Rob, worn and lost in her daily round of school, caring for her grandfather Aldo, now in the middle stage of Altsheimer's, her over-dependent little sister Lena, and her frazzled mom who works two jobs daily to keep them housed and fed.
Rob death has left his own parents also in limbo, isolated from each other in their grief. And his best friend Jason is also adrift. Rob was the mainstay, the moving-forward guy among his group, and without him Jason is lonely and conflicted--conflicted because he is drawn to his dead friend's girlfriend Holly, whom he's admired since freshman year, Despite herself, Holly responds to Jason's kindness, and despite their guilt, they fall in love.
But Rob has a terrible secret which even in his spirit form he cannot bring himself to think about or face, his part in his own death that, like his own ghostly presence, haunts those he has left behind, holding back any resolution. In his denial Rob is powerless to reach them, to set them and himself free to move on.
And then, drawn to shadow Holly and her family, Rob discovers that her grandfather Aldo, sinking fast into the inarticulateness of dementia, can see and speak with him freely, and Rob finally understands that he can release those he loves and his own spirit through Aldo, that Aldo, too, has one more task in life, to be the one to help Rob reveal to Holly what she must do to move on into her own life.
In her forthcoming book, Wherever You Go (Harcourt, 2011) Heather Davis portrays a poignant story of denial and grief that, despite its fantasy underpinnings, shows realistic characters dealing with one of life's hard realities. Davis' narrative device of a three-part point of view, Holly in the first person, Rob in the second, and Jason in the third person, requires a bit of sophistication among readers, but her sharp sense of characterization moves the plot at just the right pace through the serious theme and into its satisfying affirmation of love and life in the resolution. Davis, whose previous novel,The Clearing, (see my review here) dealt sensitively with issues of life, death, and love, has another strong contender in the paranormal romance category, one which mercifully eschews vampires, werewolves, and the other supernatural heroes and heroines of recent literature for real. live (and not-so-live) characters.
Publishers Weekly gives this one a LIKE, saying "...the story is a welcome addition to the shelf of YA books that deal honestly with grief. Without sugarcoating, it achieves a melancholy sweetness that is becoming a hallmark of Davis’s work," Kirkus Reviews weighs in with an affimative "Poignant and eventually quite moving."