Everything Grows

300p. Three Rooms Pr. May 2019. pap. $15. ISBN 9781941110683.
Gr 9 Up—In this novel set in Nirvana-obsessed 1993–94, Eleanor's classmate and bully, James, dies by suicide. Eleanor's English teacher assigns letter-writing as a way of coping, and Eleanor chooses to write to James about all of the details of her life, including coming out as a lesbian and possibly transgender, her mother's own suicide attempt, her sister's abortion, her parents' divorce, and her first experiences with dating and sex. Part of Eleanor's writing is a response to James's own journal, which she obtained after befriending his mother at suicide survivor meetings. James's journal is also written as letters, surprisingly addressed to "Elinore," and he discloses that he is also gay. Other than the inconsistent, sometimes forced presence of the 1990s setting, these teen trials and family dynamics are perennially relatable.
VERDICT The conversational writing has appeal, and Eleanor's story will hit home with many teen readers.

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