Six Goodbyes We Never Said

Wednesday Bks. Sept. 2019. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250116246.
Gr 7 Up–Naima Rodriguez is struggling to cope with the recent loss of her father, who was serving in the military overseas. Now living with her grandparents, she counts the hexagons on her quilt and does everything in increments of six to stave off her palpable grief. Using a voice recorder to keep distance by recording observations as news headlines, Dew-Was-Diaz-Brickman is trying to settle into his adoptive family after tragically losing his own parents. He is looking for a friend who can understand his loss and reaches out to Naima, who is slow to warm up. Eventually both make progress with their grief, separately and together. While the book opens with a two-page trigger warning, the nature of the content is more likely to comfort than to cause distress. Naima is diagnosed by the author with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, while Dew is diagnosed with social anxiety. These issues are explored with humanizing examples that invite empathy. The split narrative is interspersed with old voicemails from Naima’s dad, and the email drafts she never sent in response. The story includes many colorful secondary characters, particularly Dew’s adoptive sister Faith, who develops an interest in professional wrestling that helps her deal with her own problems.
VERDICT Sure to be reassuring to those working their way through grief

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