1987. There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down. But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life - someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn's funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.
My real-life book club is indulging in a year of reading young adult literature, and this is our March selection. I am also using it to fulfill the “book about grief” selection for my 2018 PopSugar Challenge and the entry for B in my Female Authors A to Z challenge.
The main character, June, spends the course of the book figuring out the nature of love and grief in life. She realizes that we say “love” but that it can represent a variety of different emotions—between parents and children, between siblings, for good friends, even for favourite foods, as well as romantic connection. She learns about her mother’s estrangement from her brother, June’s beloved Uncle Finn. She navigates the yawning distance developing between her sister Greta and herself. She processes the loss of Finn and finds a new connection with his partner Toby.
What a great portrayal of life in all its messiness! If you’ve lived through some family rifts or somehow found yourself further away from a sibling that you ever believed possible, you will find something to hang onto in this novel. The relationships were realistic, not melodramatic or overdone. Although the grief was palpable in places, it didn’t send me rushing to a tissue box, like Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls.
I am constantly amazed at how much really good writing there is out there in the Young Adult genre—if you enjoy YA, add this one to your reading pile.