how she died, how i lived


One day twenty-year-old loner and weirdo Kyle Paxson sends texts to five of his former classmates at Midland High School asking them to meet with him. Only one replies, and she ends up raped, beaten and murdered with a crowbar shoved down her throat. Caught afterwards in a neighboring town (with a brand-new crowbar and duct tape in his car trunk), Kyle confesses to the crime and now, one year later, awaits sentencing. The four girls who escaped harm are preparing for impact interviews with the prosecutors before final determination of Kyle’s fate.

This book examines, through first-person narrative of one of the four girls (who is never given a name, by the way), the many ways in which this horrible event has affected their lives: the guilt at having survived at the expense of one girl’s death, the difficulty of making it through the mundane and ordinary activities of daily life, the sense of a future being forevermore shaped by what has happened in the past, the challenge of dealing with evil in recognizable human form, and, finally, the confusing concept of forgiveness as it relates to self-survival.  At the same time, this book examines the complicated ways in which women (and particularly trusting young teenage girls) must navigate society to leave themselves open to positive, rewarding relationships with others while staying physically and emotionally safe.  “Every Girl Matters” (which is the name of the group that the murdered girl’s mother joins and invites our narrator to investigate) is the true theme of this well-written and thoughtful novel, and our narrator is not Everyman but Every Girl.

There is, of course, graphic violence described in the book.  Offensive language consists of the usual YA vocabulary (hell, damn, asshole, f*** and its variations, bitch, pussies), much of which generally denigrates women. There is also religious profanity.  Suggestive sexual references are made but there are no graphic scenes written.

Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Death and Grieving, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Peer Relationships, Violence

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