Review ♦ Lessons From A Dead Girl

About the Book

Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, the pain of knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery.

Yet, she had 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. Practicing for when they got older and got married. But Laine knew that other girls don’t do those things. Do they? 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.


My Thoughts  
With Lessons From A Dead Girl it’s obvious from the title that a girl does indeed die – which lets you feel up-front almost safe somehow. You don’t have to worry that the book will pull you in and break your heart. Even though it’s sad when a character dies, being prepared ahead of time gives you that little bit of emotional edge. Right? Well, sometimes. In this book the focus is less on death and more on how the people left behind go on living. Laine, is the girl left behind after Leah dies. And the story is all about how, and if, she will be able to create a new life for herself now that she is free from her best friend, her worst enemy and her abuser, Leah.

As children, Leah knew that Laine was not as outgoing or capable of making friends – not that she was a complete loser, just that she was shy, and a little bit of an introvert. Leah takes complete advantage of this. They are friends, but for Leah it is about power, and this is what makes Lessons From A Dead Girl so fascinating. Children appear so innocent, but they are perhaps more skilled at manipulation and power games than any adult, maybe because they lack the experience to know how their actions can affect others.

The other really interesting thing about this book is that it brings up the topic of children abusing other children. Not something I’ve read much about fiction-wise, but I have read some non-fiction on the subject. In this book the abuse that Leah inflicts upon Laine comes across as unbearably realistic, the way that she makes it seem innocent, until Laine is comfortable and then reverses everything so Laine is made to feel like the guilty one. The motive behind why an adolescent girl would sexually abuse her best friend, and the way in which she uses their history against Laine later on in their teens was horrendous, but never for a moment did I doubt that this could happen in real life.

My only complaint about the story was that Laine’s older sister seemed to know something was going on between the two girls, and even though she did sometimes break the stress of certain situations, she never tried to find out if there was more than normal kids problems going on. But even though this bothered me, at the same time it felt authentic – sometimes teenage girls are just too caught up in their own lives to notice that little sisters may be going through more than an ordinary fight with their friends. So I guess that cancels out the complaint eh?

Anyways, Lessons From A Dead Girl is definitely a good read, very realistic and I would have to say extraordinarily valuable for touching on the subject of abuse among peers – something that happens in real life much more than society would like to admit, which is probably the number one reason why kids feel scared to let people know it’s happening to them. I feel like a goofy public service announcement, but I think it’s great when young adult books tackle the ugly stuff – awareness and education are the best ways to protect our kids and stop these things from happening.


jo knowles About The Author

Jo Knowles got hooked on writing for young adults after taking a course on children’s literature in college and went on to earn a master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. She was the recipient of the 2005 PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award.

The inspiration for Lessons From A Dead Girl came from an article about kids abusing kids. “I began to wonder what makes childhood friendships so complex, so painful at times, and yet so binding,” she says.

Jo Knowles lives in Vermont with her husband and young son.


Title: Lessons From A Dead Girl
Author: Jo Knowles
Book Genre: Young Adult Fiction (14+)
Book Type: Hardcover 224 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: October 2007

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Dar said...

This sounds like a really good book Joanne. It sounds quite emotional. It always amazes me how mean kids can be sometimes and for those that are on the shyer side, things like school and growing up aren't the easiest. Thanks for the review. This is one that I'm going to check out further.

bermudaonion said...

Sounds like a powerful book. Great review.

Nicole said...

Nice review. I read a book recently about female bullying, so it would be interesting to read this as well.

Stephanie said...

Girl, you are adding WAY too many books to my TBR pile!! I gotta stop coming over here!

Kailana said...

Sounds interesting. I have never even heard of this book before! I will have to keep it in mind. :)

naida said...

This does sound like an emotional read.
Great review.

Sadako said...

This looks awesome. Loved the review. Really reminds me of the Lovely Bones--the idea of one girl dead and ppl left behind.

Angie said...

That book sounds really good, in a sad, slighly disturbing kind of way. Thanks for the review.

Lenore said...

Did you read Living Dead Girl? If so, did you see any similiarities?

Anonymous said...

I could have sworn I had already left a comment here... oh well. Not sure what it was I was going to say. Tiddlypom? (i'm trying to read blogs while Kill Bill is on.)

Mishel said...

The synopsis alone grabbed my attention but your detailed review really took hold. I'd really love to read this book and I'll have to look into it further. Thanks so much!

Mo from Unmainstream Mom Reads said...

Your review was spot on perfect and awesome :)

Anonymous said...

well i read this book, and while i thought that it was fantastic i thought that the realism just might have been a little too disturbing. i am confused at the fact that this book is reviewed as being for age groups 14+ because i am 12 and do not think that i took it much harder than most adults would... this book is to a point where if you understand it, your age doesn't make much of a difference