Whew. This is a tough one to review, because of the subject matter itself and because it’s difficult to discuss without giving spoilers. The first half of this book is very dark. Although there are important peripheral characters, the main characters are sixteen-year-old Kiera, her mom Moira, and her recently-deceased older sister Hannah. Kiera’s part of the story is told in the first person and Moira’s in third-person limited point of view; Hannah’s story is told through diary entries. As such, the reader is really placed into the mind of each character, and let me reiterate: it’s very dark, especially for the first half of this novel. On the one hand, this really makes the experience realistic and enables the characters to come alive and evoke sympathy, but…maybe it’s a bit too much for too long.
The target audience for “Gone Too Soon” is young adult, and as an adult reading this, I would categorize it as mature young adult or even adult. I loved that this became a story about redemption and coming to terms with grief, with all of the baggage that involves: shame, guilt, anger, depression, etc. However, I feel the need to add a major caveat here. A large percentage of this book is not a feel-good story, and it’s not meant to be. This is about a family truly coming apart at the seams, and it is anything but pretty. It is raw and real, and the first two-thirds or so of the story could be included in a manual about how not to deal with grief. There are plenty of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and for this reason I would issue a trigger warning for suicide, rape, and drug and alcohol abuse. There are no graphic details, but the mindset of the characters are described thoroughly. Given this, I would only recommend this book to those who are looking to help people who are dealing with grief and/or those who are looking for a heartfelt read but who are approaching it from a stable mental health perspective. The later part of this book, about the resolution of the plot, could be helpful as a Christian approach to grief. My main bone of contention with the book as a whole is that while I found it to be an absolutely compelling read and loved that it dealt with real-life issues and brought in a Christian perspective in a realistic, non-preachy manner, I feel that the darkness was too heavy without any whispers of hope for too long before any relief entered the narrative.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not required.