The World Without Us

240p. Orca Books. Feb. 2015. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781459806818; ebk. ISBN 9781459806825.
Gr 7–10—In the opening scene of this problem novel about depression and suicide, 16-year-old Melody's friend Jeremy jumps off a bridge. In flashbacks and forward, Melody wrestles with her guilt, her complicity in encouraging Jeremy's darkness for its romantic nature, and her own fascination with death. The backdrop of autumnal Florida during a death row watch by Melody's activist anti-capital-punishment mother provides rich context for the teens' morbid curiosity, with a sweet counterpoint offered by Melody's bright eight-year-old babysitting charge and her fascination with black holes. Stevenson skillfully plots the frequent scene changes through different time periods, revealing just enough at just the right times, and making her protagonist's voice ring true as a smart, skeptical, white middle-class teen. No worries about a pat, simplistic ending either; these are characters who will continue to learn, grow, and change beyond the end of these concise pages. Not too intense or depressing for its subject matter, this will have most appeal to upper middle school and early high school readers who like serious topics, such as fans of Patricia McCormick and Sonya Sones.—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

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