Ann Dee Ellis' latest novel, The End or Something Like It, is deceptively simple. The opening chapters are just a single sentence apiece. And the voice (an authentic, quirky, 14-year-old named Emmy who's mourning the death of her best friend Kim the year before) is sometimes repetitive, sometimes simple, sometimes abrupt.
But for all that there's a strangely lyrical quality about the voice. I found Emmy wholly believable as a character in mourning. At the same time, despite the potentially depressing topic, the book itself isn't depressing: it's much more a believable portrait of friendship between two young women, and Emmy's recollections of Kim are bitter-sweet, funny (often), off-beat, and charming. The story switches between the present and the past (when Kim is still alive), as Emmy struggles with Kim's acceptance of her death and Kim's insistence that Emmy try to contact her after she dies.
As Emmy puts it, "Turns out I suck at talking to dead people."
Only she doesn't. She just sucks at talking to Kim. Other dead people--including her ex-earth sciences teacher, Mrs. Homeyer--she has no trouble seeing.
As the novel weaves back and forth between past and present, readers get a glimpse into Emmy's relationship with Kim (and understanding as to why Emmy feels so much guilt about her death) and Emmy's gradual re-emergence from a sort of mourning cocoon.
I thought it was lovely.
It's possible that I'm biased because I knew Ann Dee in high school--but I don't think so. I've read other books by people I know and like that I didn't like so well. I read this in an afternoon and I keep thinking about it.
Also, I'm fairly certain Mrs. Homeyer was modeled after a real teacher at the junior high we both attended (of the same name). I'm 90% sure I had to do those same word searches. (But then, my memories of some aspects of junior high are pretty fuzzy).