The Tragedy of Dane Riley

St. Martin’s/Wednesday. Jun. 2021. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250124807.
Gr 9 Up–Dane Riley likes to go deep. Whether he’s contemplating the meaning of the universe or analyzing the way his mother dresses, he can’t seem to get outside of his head. Surviving a suicide attempt lands him in an elite boarding school, where his parents feel that the mandatory involvement will help him engage with others. But when he returns home after his junior year, Dane is shocked to find that his father is a shell of the man he had been, a result of his secret battle with cancer. A few months later he is gone, and Dane and his mom are left to pick up the pieces of their lives. As Dane struggles with his anger and grief, he must deal with his mother’s relationship with his dad’s best friend, his obsession with Ophelia, the dynamic next-door neighbor, and his lapse into increasingly violent outbursts. Though he feels like his private texts to his father’s old cell number are the only bits of connection he has, he begins to see that there are multiple ways to face grief and anxiety. Spears tackles the difficult subjects of depression and grief in a way that is accessible to teens. Dane is white, Ophelia is Black and white, and other characters are of various backgrounds, and the text includes thoughtful talking points about race and ethnicity. Though the narrative is heavier on dialogue and introspection than plot, its witty lines and authentic emotional exchanges are sure to appeal to anyone going through a difficult time.
VERDICT A moving, realistic portrayal of mental illness and grief. Recommended for high school libraries.

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