“Before and After. That’s how Rowan Areno sees her life now. Before: she was a normal sixteen-year-old—a little too sheltered by her police officer father and her mother. After: everything she once believed has been destroyed in the wake of a shattering tragedy, and every day is there to be survived.
If she had known, on that Friday in March when she cut school, that a random stranger’s shocking crime would have traumatic consequences, she never would have left campus. If the crime video never went viral, maybe she could have saved her mother, grandmother—and herself—from the endless replay of heartache and grief.
Finding a soul mate in Eli, a witness to the crime who is haunted by losses of his own, Rowan begins to see there is no simple, straightforward path to healing wounded hearts. Can she learn to trust, hope, and believe in happiness again?”
Thoughts: Teens and tragedy appear to go hand-in-hand lately. It is unfortunate in a way because it makes the teen years much more difficult than they already are. Still, there is an attraction between the two that is difficult to ignore, if only because misery does love company. Besides, people find solace in another person’s pain – to some extent.
The most emotionally difficult scenes within the story are also the ones that emphasize Ms. Wiess’ mastery of the emotions within the story. Rowan’s, as well as her mother’s, struggles through the grief process are tough, honest, and surprisingly gripping. One expects to be a remote observer to the proceedings, but this ends quickly with Ms. Wiess’ knack for capturing in a few taut words everything Rowan emotionally and mentally experiences. The reader becomes something more than a bystander, not just a witness to Rowan’s pain but a fellow sufferer.
Ms. Wiess touches on the debilitating effects of depression, not just on the sufferer but also on the sufferer’s loved ones, with grace and gravitas. As a result, it is an intense story that makes one reevaluate the growing concern about bullying, especially online. She shows that one cannot just hope to wake up one day and feel happy, that it is not a mindset one can change at will, that it is truly a disease every bit as insidious and damaging as the sneakiest cancer or pathogen.
There is nothing truly remarkable about Rowan. She is not the queen bee of her school’s hierarchy, nor is she the delightfully quirky free spirit who follows her own social rules. She is neither a talented athlete nor artist. She is a normal teen with normal fears, desires, dreams, and parental battles. She seeks independence without gaining too much adult responsibility and looks for ways to test the boundaries set by her parents. There is nothing good or bad about her position. She is a typical teen, but one who has to experience the toughest type of loss. Rowan’s ordinariness is refreshing because it is a reminder that even those who spend their entire lives flying under the radar and living by the rules cannot hide from grief. It is also significant because it allows readers to better empathize with her, as there is nothing extraordinary about her that makes it impossible to step into her shoes and experience her emotions.
Me Since You is not a cheery novel. The tragedy that occurs to Rowan is almost as bad as one imagines it will be, and there is no getting around the seriousness of the plot. This does not mean that the novel is entirely depressing. There are hopeful moments and scenes of growth and maturity that offset the more upsetting scenes, with the story ending on a positive note that no matter how bad things get, they almost always improve. It is as important a message as one could portray to its teen audience, and one worth remembering for adult readers as well.