Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Review- Lessons From A Dead Girl: Jo Knowles

SUMMARY (From amazon.com)

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 for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.


Apart from the unique albeit disturbing premise of this book, it honestly didn't stand out all that much to me. Leah is a very screwed up kid and forces that onto Laine, tormenting and ruining her childhood. Neither girl really does anything to stop it and it just keeps snowballing. I knew this book dealt with kids abusing kids but I admit, I didn't realize they meant sexual abuse- and it follows logically that Leah had to learn those things from somewhere, even in 5th grade, to do them to Laine.

Leah is the stereotypical product of rich parents who care more about public appearances, their jobs and themselves than their kids. Even when Leah really starts acting out as a teenager, the talk of the town is how it's always the rich kids that just don't have enough attention already but the truth is, things started going wrong for Leah early on. I did feel bad for her character but I would be surprised to find anyone who wouldn't, considering she was sexually abused even as a child.

Laine is the weak character that has no self esteem and just goes with it, each time and everything Leah does weakening her more. She is both a product of Leah and weak to begin with. Embarassment and fear were her main driving forces to never tell anyone- fear of liking it a little too much and being a lesbian. In that sense, this book did pull in many elements of things teenagers do face, with each one seeming to be worse for Laine. When she and Leah drift apart, the group of friends she had goes too because they tolerated her only because Leah said she should be there.

Each chapter is titled with a different lesson Laine learned, all at the hand of Leah. They are almost always relevant to the chapter and I did enjoy seeing the way Laine viewed everything. I also have to admit, the ending was a bit of a shock despite already knowing Leah Greene is dead. The book opens with that- telling you from the start- and then the story takes the reader through everything that Laine had experienced, telling the story until Leah's death. Even then, however, it was heartbreaking and surprising.

Covering a not often talked about topic, this book does rank up there in terms of originality although everything else, as I said, was pretty generic. Screwed up kid turns rebellious, fights out against those around her, screws up someone else who just lets their self esteem keep taking the hits- it is often seen in books and it played out here again. Fear, guilt and insecurities- and ultimately healing- are the main features of this book and I didn't think it really did much to make it its own. Bottom line- I give this one 3 stars because it was a quick albeit it very disturbing read with good writing but not that many unique features.
Source: Purchased at amazon.com
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (August 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763644854
ISBN-13: 978-0763644857

Author's Website


  1. I felt like you also and found a way to enjoy it more.

    Here was my review.


  2. It sounds king of disturbing but also a fairly good read. And three stars is pretty much in the middle (almost) so maybe I'll try it. Great review!

  3. awesome review! I have 2 read some of Jo Knowles books :D

  4. This story really made me reflect a lot after almost every chapter that I finish. It's not that often that I do that. But this one really made that kind of impact. The theme of abuse comes up often in a lot of novels, but it's rare that the people involved are 1) in the same gender and 2) are even close friends. This was a different nature of friendship and children, showing the destructive side of it.
    I can't dwell on it more and talk about how much I liked the book, I just think you should read it. It is not only a page-turner and a fast read, it also deals with a very important issue, often overlooked by many.
    Written with clarity and compassion, this is a heart breaking story of betrayal, forgiveness, and growth between friends; neither of them protagonists nor antagonists. Because at the end of the day, we all are somewhat of both after all.