Simon & Schuster
Having read the other titles in the trilogy, I think sweet, hereafter is a deft closing. This final installment is about Sweet, a young girl we meet through Marley in Heaven. Sweet is odd; she wears knee high rain boots, isn’t obsessed with ipods or Facebook, drives a truck dubbed Alice and likes feeding ground hogs apple peels. She doesn’t fit in with her perfect, beautiful family. In this closing book, it’s a few years later and Sweet, a senior, is still odd but popular. When her relationship with her family reaches her breaking point, she moves in with Curtis, another quiet but friendly young man enlisted in the Reserves home after one tour in Iraq. Their connection is both tender and tenuous.
The story unfolds slowly. The commentary is sparse and even the most dramatic scenes are subdued. This is however a poignant read. Johnson renders a short, but memorable story about how we find meaning and make connections in the lives we lead. There’s no happy ending but there is resolution. There is some peace. To paraphrase one of the characters, there is enough. We don’t get a lot of time with the characters, we don’t get lengthy histories or long passages of dialogue but we do get enough. We get a mother connecting with a daughter in a way I think the daughter understands. We get a young girl and young man loving for a time. We see friends doing what they can. We get enough.
In a culture where communication is a juxtaposition of multi-tasking and texting, I think this kind of brevity matches teens' modern sensibility without compromising the art. This is life distilled in a meaningful way.
The length of the book works. This book is small but powerful. Yes, it is a good for a reluctant reader and a broader audience as well. My experience is that most teens want everything from food to entertainment to get to the point and get there fast. No, we don’t get 400 pages of pining or violence. It’s not an epic tale of adventure. It is what I think the author intended: an intimate close to a series that has looked at relationships the way they really happen.
For me the read is seamless; elegant in sparse prose lines that feel like poetry. The depth of the work is understated but potent.
Have you read any Johnson? How do you feel about slim volume YA titles? What elements do you need in a work to keep you interested: dialogue, action, fantasy, humor?