Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

lessonsfromadeadgirlknowlesLessons from a Dead Girl

by Jo Knowles

  • VOYA: 5Q4P J
  • Lexile Level: 620L
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763632791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763632793

When Leah Greene drives her car off of a cliff, Lainey is a little bit relieved.  Hadn’t she wished for this?  She hated Leah so much… but there is a lot of distance between their troubling forays in the closet and the young women they have become.  Lainey hasn’t talked to Leah in ages until she runs into her at a party.  It is at this same party that Lainey sees how out of control Leah has become, and after a few too many drinks and a blowout with her boyfriend, Leah takes off in her car.  She always was a reckless driver and the curvy roads coupled with her emotional state and alcohol use are a deadly mix.  Everyone could see that it was accident, right?  But Lainey cannot help but feel responsible.  As she reexamines their emotionally draining and psychologically damaging relationship, Lainey begins to wonder if she is really over the past afterall.  With Leah dead, can she finally move on?

Knowles has created a powerful and disturbing tale that digs deep into the psychology of childhood relationships and sexual abuse.  Told entirely from Lainey’s point of view, the reader begins to put together the pieces of both girls’ lives.  The result is a harrowing pattern of abuse and psychological vampirism that readers may find deeply disturbing yet ultimately redeeming as Lainey begins to make peace with both Leah and herself. 

I strongly encourage parents of young girls to read this novel.  It is an excellent conversation starter regarding appropriate relationships, complicated sexuality issues, and general problems associated with growing up.  For young readers, this novel may provide a means of understanding how troubling behaviors originate and how situations can spiral out of control.

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