Kristin's Reviews > A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
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's review
Jul 25, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: lgbtq, yaf, read-2010
Read from July 21 to 25, 2010

I was very skeptical about this book before I read it. This year I have read 3 books that included some sort of performance art to mark the climax of the story; and while they all served their purpose, the chosen event seems exhausted. I felt a little uneasy knowing that the original musical, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad was the main event of this book. But, it turned out not to be, but actually so so much more.

I was only going to give A Love Story 4 stars because sometimes the dialogue felt clunky and too mature for 17 year olds; man, they are complicated! I was also unsure about the alternating "Now" and "Then" chapters. Cass, the narrator, is preparing for the early school year performance of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad during the "Now'; and recounting a doomed bicycle journey to honor her best friend, Julia, during the "Then". But, it is clear they are complementary parts creating a bittersweet whole. So, 5 stars it is.

As for the actual story: Cass may or may not have been in love with Julia since their friendship began in grade school. Julia died in a car accident right before their senior year of high school, but she left behind the script for the original muiscal, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad and her friends decide that they must put it on. Ollie, Julia's boyfriend, resents Cass and whatever feelings she may have had for Julia. Heather was Cass's mortal enemy in middle school and shows up after transferring to Catholic school and back right before senior year because she was cast as Ninja Princess Himiko/needed to get away from the nuns and her ex. Put these characters together in a high school and prepare for something volatile. And, sprinkle a thoughtfully crafted romance to soothe the tempest within (or not!).

Aside from designing artillery for the play, Cass is a bicycle enthusiast, a math geek, Quaker and a lesbian with pretty supportive parents who are big on "hippie Jesus" - turn the other cheek, love your enemies. But, this is by far NOT the Gaytopia of David Levithan's books. There is plenty of homophobia to make it feel authentic (without being didactic) and remind us that yes, people are still judgmental and kids are still scared to come out even with plenty of gay role models, community support, films, etc. That's what makes this book so important. But, bravery and courage prevail, always.

I look forward to more novels by Emily Horner. This is a remarkable debut from a totally sweet YA librarian!

*P.S. for all those fans of Looking for Alaska, this book may be for you.
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