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Lessons from a Dead Girl

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  7,031 ratings  ·  568 reviews
An unflinching story of a troubled friendship — and one girl’s struggle to come to terms with secrets and shame and find her own power to heal.

Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her f
Hardcover, 215 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Candlewick
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Emily It's mainly about a girl that makes an unexpected friend. Her new friend is Leah. Leah is what you'd call a pretty "popular" girl. Really active and o…moreIt's mainly about a girl that makes an unexpected friend. Her new friend is Leah. Leah is what you'd call a pretty "popular" girl. Really active and outgoing. The main character, Laine, discovers that Leah can be confusing and frustrating at times. Leah starts to act differently as a person, and towards Laine. Years Later Leah starts acting like a reckless teenager. She has a boyfriend and starts acting horribly. Basically, Laine tells us what happened to Leah and how she died exactly. The exciting things about this book is how Leah starts changing dramatically throughout the book. But she starts changing in a rather bad way. I hope that answers all your questions. Sorry if I gave away any spoilers. (less)

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Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,031 ratings  ·  568 reviews

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Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers 16 plus who like their stories dark and sad and insightful
Recommended to Jaidee by: Lovely young woman who I befriended on streetcar
4.5 "riveting, accurate and astonishing" stars

2015 Honorable Mention Read

As some of you know I have a love-hate relationship with YA books. However, this was recommended to me a few months back by a young woman I befriended on the streetcar Initially we would only talk about music and film but later also spoke about books. I cannot wait to tell her next time I see her about how much this book impressed me.

At first glance this book looks like a Gone Girl thriller with lesbian overtones for youn
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: changed-my-life
This book...undoubtedly changed my life. I wrote the author and thanked her very much for being the only author I've ever seen to have the guts to write about this subject, because I'll tell you right now, this happens. I'm not even ashamed to tell you that for awhile I WAS Laine. I read this book and thought someone had been stalking No, but it's not funny. It's serious and it's abuse and it really messes with you. My boyfriend even knows that for a couple of weeks while/after I read ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Have you ever had to keep a secret? One that you would not know the outcome of--what if they laugh--its my fault--what if I get in trouble--what is they get in trouble? Laine is faced just with that issue. Leah (Laine’s “BFF”) has a new idea one day to ‘practice’ things that they will do when they get older.

As time grows on the ‘practicing’ continues--and the secret is kept. Laine must decided for herself if she is going to tell the secret or hold in it forever and will she ever forgive Leah.

I m
Belle Feyhl
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
i read this book and it only took me a week to read it. it was not my normal books i read about vampires but it is still really good.
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for

Laine hated her, and wished many times that Leah would die and leave her alone. She didn't understand Leah, or why Leah chose her to be her best friend all those years ago. She didn't understand the things that Leah did to her in the doll closet, or why Leah would torment her with that knowledge and the shame that Laine felt. As they grew older, she didn't understand the problems that Leah faced, or the impact that they had on her behavior. As the
Jun 06, 2009 rated it did not like it
Ugh. This story had such potential. I think the book raises serious issues that are so important to deal with, but oy, this story doesn't deal with them, it just lays them out there and leaves more questions than answers.

I stopped caring about the characters. Laine, the narrator, is so self-deprecating and insecure... and she never seems to change, which is maddening. Relationships are contrived - I can't imagine a lot of these scenes EVER happening. Worst of all for me was that Leah, the anta
Charlie Schnell
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Recommended to Charlie by: Found it through Goodreads.
Shelves: young-adult
I wish more people would read this book. This was a hard book to read at times. It is powerful and I found I had to put it down to check what I was feeling and come back to it later. Surprisingly I only felt that 'teenage drama' once while reading. I think Ms. Knowles has done a brilliant job with a very difficult subject. Wonderful writing too. I am looking forward to "Jumping off Swings" in 2009. You should check out her blog, her writing there cracks me up! ...more
Carrie G
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can all read the summary at the top, or any of the other numerous reviews, so I'm going to skip the summary and go straight to what I thought...

WOW! I plowed through this book in just a couple of hours, and my head is still spinning. I decided to read the book because I've offered it as a choice the past two years for Banned Books Week projects, but hadn't yet read it. I thought it might behoove me to find out just how this book ended up on the list in the first place before I gave it to too
Linda Lipko
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is yet another young adult book which deals with complex issues.

Laine is shy, unpopular and, unlike some in her high school, she is not exceedingly attractive. Thus, when Leah Greene who is rich, very popular and incredibly beautiful lures Laine into her inner circle, she loves the attention and the feeling of fitting in with the right click. Laine soon learns that there is a very high emotional price to pay.

Manipulated and emotionally abused by Leah, Laine is fearful of ending the relation
Melissa (YA Book Shelf)
Hard to put down. This story makes you want to bear witness to Laine's difficult and abusive relationship with her "BFF," Leah. The shame and guilt both about what happened between them, the confusing thoughts she had about it, and her fear that she's responsible for Leah's death makes for an interesting, but difficult read.

Secondary characters like Sam and Leah's mom creeped me out so much. How can you tell your pre-pubescent daughter "if you got it, flaunt it" and never see what's right in fr
Aug 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
This one has been sitting on my shelf for a long time at the beginning and the all whole way through Leah was so bossy Towards Laine and when they were at the cinemas with Jeffrey she decided to take him away from Laine she was never a very nice towards Laine I got it mate I was actually looking forward to this book wait let me down I really didn't like it for that I only give it one star ...more
Lessons From a Dead Girl is a coming-of-age story with some dark themes: sexual abuse, self-mutilation, and drug addiction, to name a few. This book tells the story of Laine, a shy, quiet, unpopular girl who is befriended by the most popular girl in school, a rich and beautiful girl named Leah. The two are inseparable, despite the disfunctionality of their friendship. Leah is often cruel and manipulative to Laine and pressures her into "experimenting" with her in the closet of Laine' s room, an ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Laine is an ordinary teenager with a gut-wrenching secret that haunts her from the very first page of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL and haunts readers long after the last page is turned. The "dead girl" in the title is Laine's friend Leah -- a friend who steals away Laine's childhood through an abusive relationship that escalates so painfully that you want desperately to step into the book and shout, "NO!"

This book is definitely an older YA -- one I'd recommend for high school rather than middle scho
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Lessons from a Dead Girl is a book that I think will definitely fit for high schoolers. It's an intense novel that would leave a mark on you one way or another, whether it be big or small. About a girl named Laine, who had her childhood practically obliterated by her friend Leah. Leah is then gone (passes away), and Laine reflects on everything, only to discover the deeper meanings of the friendship she once had. What I liked about this book were the powerful messages it had beneath the surface. ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Couldn't put this one down. Jo Knowles did a creditable job of depicting a very complex relationship between two girls, from childhood into adolescence. In this story, one girl has a more domineering personality, and takes advantage, physically, mentally, and emotionally, of the other girl. They are co-dependent and don't realize it. The story is told in the first person by the weaker of the two girls, who tries to understand why she let herself be victimized and why she didn't see that her frie ...more
I read this entire book in one sitting. It's short (a little over 200 pages), but it really illustrates the power our friends can have over the rest of our lives.

This book wasn't my favourite, but it was pretty good considering its length. The themes that the author tackled in this book were really well-done, especially the part about the abused becoming the abuser. I even found myself feeling bad for Leah at times, who is portrayed as both a monster and a scared, helpless young girl.

A short r
Maya Elisabeth-Joy
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
When you finish a book in two hours.......
Taylor caison
This book is about a girl named Laine McCarthy who is considered more on the weird side and she ends up meeting a very popular girl named Leah Greene. They became friends because their older sisters were best friends so they tried to get the girls together. After a little while leah and Lanie became best friends and they were always together, maybe a little too much. Leah started acting different and she became very bossy and mean to Lanie. Leah was always trying to start an argument against Lan ...more
This book was disturbing and very much uncomfortable to read, being it hit home in certain parts. I really think the author did a great job at bringing up issues that affect both girls and boys, and seem to be brushed off sometimes.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
First off, I love the cover of Lessons from a Dead Girl. I've gotten kind of bored of covers with a pretty model but not much else, and this is a really good alternative - it's incospicuous but creepy, in a good way, just like the actual book.

This book is really different than I thought it'd be. I thought it was going to be about Laine dealing with Leah's death, and struggling to understand what happened when they were kids, but most of the story takes place before Leah's death - basically, the
LeAnn Streeter
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While I was reading this book, it really makes you think, i was thinking about how twisted it kind of is. A lot of weird things happen in this book. The way the main character deals with the trauma in her life and what was inflicted upon her, is pretty amazing. She deals with it differently than some people would. But as the reader i can understand her thoughts about what was happening. And her actions towards her friends and non friends. Very addicting to read and i didn't want to put it down. ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Name: Sarah Fretz

Citation: Knowles, J. (2007). Lessons from a dead girl. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press.

Genre: Controversial/Banned


Format: e-book

Selection: American Library Association’s Books Challenged or Banned in 2009-2010.
Doyle, R. P. (n.d.). Books Challenged or Banned in 2009–2010. Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from


Laine’s best friend for most of her life is dead. Leah Greene has die
Anidict13 IsTheName
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
Grade: B-

Lainey's former best friend is dead and she feels responsible. She deconstructs the often abusive relationship through "lessons" learned from the seven year, tumultuous friendship.

Narrator Lainey is passive, and lacks self esteem, an observer with a moral compass too quick to accede to her friend's whims, control, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Leah is the far more interesting, complex character. A bully and abuser, but also likely a victim who takes an abused, unpopular classmat
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Everyone has a best friend. Someone they can trust with their life and their deepest secrets. For Laine that was Leah Greene. Leah Greene was the girl everyone wanted to be friends with, she was pretty, smart and popular. Leah was not a great friend, she was controlling and manipulative. Laine lived her life in Leah’s shadow. Laine and Leah weren’t typical best friends, they’d fight constantly and Leah would put Laine in situations no one would want to be in. After one summer of not seeing each ...more
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Neal Shusterman
Shelves: favoritebooks
This has to be one of the saddest, most thought-provoking, and most moving books I have read in my life. This book tells the story of Laine (whose nickname is Lainey), who's not too popular or pretty. But that's before she met Leah Greene. Leah is basically the opposite of Lainey. Leah is popular. Leah is pretty. She's smart. She's rich. She's everything Lainey wants to be.
But then things begin to get complicated. Leah begins to show interest in Lainey (or is she?). The times they share in Laine
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have a hard time rating this book because it was..... very disturbing. This story revolves around two young girls who become "Friends Forever." However, one of them begins to prey on the other, giving her "lessons" for things they can try on boys at a later date (I'm sure you get the picture).

I think books like this are important for young girls to read for a myriad of reasons. For one, they need to know that they're not alone. If a young girl (or boy!) reads this who has been through a simil
Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya
“Leah Green is dead.”

From the first line of this book, the reader is drawn into a haunting, yet captivating novel of friendship abuse between young girls, Laine and Leah.

Laine is ecstatic that popular Leah chooses her as a best friend in elementary school. Laine finally feels like she “fits in” somewhere. This friendship takes a dark and disturbing turn, however, when Leah convinces Laine to “experiment” in Laine’s doll room. Neither girl knows what they are feeling or why they are feeling it. T
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jo Knowles’s book Lessons from a Dead Girl is about a girl named Laine who, when she was a young girl was raped by her friend Leah Greene. Leah had claimed that they were just practicing for when they were older, but it did not feel right to Laine who was forced into the closet all those times. Jo writes about extremely controversial topics like child abuse, sex, and drug abuse. To be honest, I was a little timid at first about reading this book because I was afraid that it would make me feel un ...more
Gary Anderson
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading all of the other fine Jo Knowles novels, I kept putting different books in line ahead of Lessons from a Dead Girl, her 2007 debut. Maybe the title struck me as a little too goth, plus it is a first novel—how good could it be? Well, guess what? Lessons from a Dead Girl is excellent, and I should have read it long ago.

We learn on the first page that Laine’s friend Leah is dead. Then we go back to the beginning of their toxic friendship. 215 pages later, we see how the girls’ troubled
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Hi! I'm the author of Where The Heart Is,Still A Work In Progress, Read Between The Lines, Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry's, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons From A Dead Girl. I'm available for school, library and book club visits either in person or via Zoom. For more info, please visit Thanks! :-) ...more

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“We only hate what we don't understand.” 30 likes
“I have this friend, Jake," Mr. Mitchell says, sitting on the edge of his desk. "One day, I needed a favor. It wasn't a big favor, but I called him and told him I needed something. Know what he said?"
We shake our heads.
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We shake our heads again.
"Because he trusted me not to ask him to do something he couldn't or wouldn't want to do. He knew that whatever i asked for, he would help me simply because he was my friend and I needed help. That's true friendship.”
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