Distiller: Hikari Loftus
The End or Something Like That
by Ann Dee Ellis
Dial (May 1, 2014)
I picked up this book first and foremost because Ann Dee
Ellis is a local author, and we're big on supporting our local
authors around here. Also, as a plus, someone mentioned to me that Ellis reminded them of Steven Chbosky in this book. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been one of my favorite books since a good friend recommended it to me back in 2002. Between those two things, of course I couldn't pass this book up.
Emmy and Kim are best friends in a pretty basic bestie middle-grade/YA formula. Kim is beautiful, out going, fun and fearless. Emmy is not any of those things. Then Kim dies suddenly due to congenital heart failure. Kim's death was always in the cards, Emmy just wasn't willing to believe it.
This novel comes from Emmy's voice as she talks about fulfilling her promise to Kim. She promised that she would find a way to contact Kim in the afterlife. Before Kim's death they did research (Well, Emmy went along with Kim's plans reluctantly, because, of course, Kim wasn't going to die.) Kim ordered books, they planned dates, times, and places to meet after Kim's death. They even planned a menu for their meetings.
There is just one problem.
Kim isn't showing up. But other dead people are. What is Emmy doing wrong?
I loved the voice in this book. I loved Ellis' writing style. I loved how random some of the passages were in Emmy's train of thought. It was totally my kind of humor, and it was awesome reading. Books like this are so refreshing after being mired in regular reading—no matter how awesome regular reading can be.
Even though this book is based in Las Vegas, it was so Utah. I have never read a book where the local details were intimately familiar. That was an extra treat. Reading about Betos Texano burritos, Smith's grocery store, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Saltair—these little local details, that I could picture and taste so clearly, were a real treat for me. There were little things here and there that just felt familiar that way, and I loved that. Whenever I'm writing, I feel like Utah is maybe a boring place to write about in comparison to New York or something like that. Ellis proves that writing about what you know can really connect you with local readers on a different level.
The one thing that I didn't really like about this book were the dead people that Emmy sees. As I neared the end of the book, I realized that the presence of dead people and the warning "There will be more..." left me with a lot of expectations. I don't quite see the purpose of the ghosts she sees. I felt like including them in the story should have held more importance or lead the story somewhere, and it didn't. We also never understand why she can see them, and why they suddenly appear all at once. As you begin nearing the end of the book this aspect becomes confusing, and I think should have lead to different outcomes than the ones that took place.
I didn't think that Emmy had a very good growth arc, but maybe she wasn't meant to have one. This story is about Emmy's grief, and just in the last couple pages do we see the glimmer of hope and change. I don't know that the book is meant to make you super hopeful. I think it does an amazing job of portraying real teenage grief, awkwardness, and hurt. I think it was honest and awesome. I just wish she left the other dead people out of it. (and I did find it somewhat Chbosky-esque)
Kim and Emmy planned to drink Fresca during Kim's visitations. (Along with a whole load of other food/candy), so grab a glass of Fresca and think about those who have passed on, as you read The End or Something Like That.