Random Review No. 2: All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mithard

Random reviews is for talking about the books that the Reading Tub has been asked to review, but aren’t probably a genre I would personally seek out. Rare is the occasion that a “chick lit” title really catches my attention. Maybe this one did because it’s based on a true story, and I tend to like books that have some basis in reality. Whatever the reason, it was a page turner.

Title: All We Know of Heaven; a Novel
Author: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008
Copy Type: Uncorrected Proof

Audience: Read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 12 and up

The first few chapters set the stage with flashbacks. We meet Maureen O’Malley and Bridget Flannery. The events of the past are interrupted by the internal voice of a person in a coma. When we are brought to the “present” by the car crash, we havelearned enough about both girls to understand why they were together, but not enough to do more than accept what the police and doctors told us: the driver was killed, the passenger is in a coma. They had those facts right, but they had their identities backward. It wasn’t until a dentist visited our coma patient that the story truly begins…

Since leaving my former job (where I had to keep current on world events) to be a mom, I have stepped away from morning TV and talk shows in general. So I don’t remember hearing about the “real life” tragedy at the time. Maybe that works out well, because I came to the story with now opinion, knowledge, perspective, nothing.

And what I got for my more cloistered view of the world was a very rewarding story.  Maureen’s story, alone, is a particularly inspiring one. But what I really liked about the book was how the author developed a truly ensemble cast, and gave each of them enough depth so that you could have some sense of the world as they saw it, not only as friends and family, but as a community. She gave us the good, bad, and ugly, but didn’t over play any of them. I would imagine that teen book clubs (particularly  mother/daughter clubs) would find this an exceptional book for discussion. Whether you take one character’s view of life or talk about acceptance, change, consequence of choices, grief, you name it , there is a lot to talk about.

I would love to know how close to reality the author stayed as time went on. Did she have an opportunity to interview any of the “characters” to build out their persona? I love that the book leaves you with questions. But then again, in a story like this one, it inches me ever closer to that voyeuristic pit that drives our “news” today!

As we always do in the Reading Tub, we’ll give this to someone in the target audience and add their review. Most likely, it will go to the Teen STAR Review Team at Be the Star You Are! I’ll be curious to see what they think.

To read our full review, just jump in the Reading Tub.

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