CW’s: Death, Grief, Alcoholism
Representation 🌷 Grief
Note: I won’t explicitly mention what exactly happens as the book’s major plot point, but I will be talking about the general topic of the book and some aspects, so if you don’t want to know any hints about what happens, it might be best to skip the Review! Just wanted to warn you, as it’s hard to review the book without at least talking about the themes.
A single choice can change everything.
Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.
Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.
Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.
For what she let happen.
With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?
“Living when others died wasn’t something you just woke up one day and got over, even though sometimes it felt that way. […] It just took time and family and friends and love to come to terms with the fact that life did move on. Life kept going, and you couldn’t be left behind, living in a past that no longer existed. […] I knew I couldn’t go back and start a new beginning. I couldn’t rewrite the middle. All I could do was change tomorrow, as long as I had one.”
This one really hit me. I read it at the right time for me and applaud the author for writing such a heart-wrenching, terribly realistic book and managing to make it a very emotional experience, that feels genuine in how hard it hits. Going into the book I had no idea what a cathartic experience it would be, but I can say that the book truly helped me. Therefore, it took me a while to review it, but I really wanted to share my thoughts, as I love If There’s No Tomorrow as it has become one of my best-of-2019 books. I might not remember everything correctly, as I read the book in May, but here are my overarching thoughts.
🌷 The book masterfully portrays Lena’s grief. She’s been in a horrible situation and has just lost several people close to her, who were very young. Lena also has intense survivor’s guilt, something that prompts her to isolate herself from all her remaining friends and her crush Sebastian, because she cannot bear to face them. I related a lot to her grief, as I just read this book shortly after a friend died, so it was a cathartic experience for me. Thankfully, I haven’t been in the same situation as Lena, but I did lose someone young to an accident, so a lot of her feelings surrounding the shock of it all and how everyday life goes on without them was very relatable to me. The whole surreal feeling to it all was very well portrayed in the atmosphere of the book, it all felt very genuine and real to what I was feeling at the time and that made this hard to review for a while. I truly think that the author managed to portray all the feelings and internal struggles of Lena so well, who additionally deals with this guilt and trying to heal from this loss. A lot of the book was about her isolation and how it prevented her from the healing process, but at the same time the numbness also was realistic, and it took Lena a while to be able to move forward again and face what has happened.
🌷 The romantic aspect of the story was gracefully handled. It didn’t overtake the Arc of Lena healing and dealing with her grief, but rather supplemented the story. Usually I’m no big fan of the ‘they’re childhood friends and she’s been in love with him forever’ Trope, but here I actually didn’t mind because despite his flaws Sebastian was a good guy. He was trying to be there for Lena in this hard time, not letting go, because he knew that she needed someone to persist and not let her succumb to her isolation. Yet Sebastian also struggled with his own loss, because he’s been affected too, maybe not to the same degree as Lena, but he’s grieving too and having to deal with a new, hard reality. I thought that both characters made for a good couple who truly found each other during times of suffering and tried to support each other, even when they were having frustrations with the other as well. The relationship turned out to be very realistic given the circumstances and I was rooting for Lena and Sebastian to carve out a little piece of happiness among all the sadness.
🌷 I appreciated how the book showd the different reactions of Lena’s friends. Like I mentioned, Lena is isolating herself from a lot of people, including her friends, who have also suffered this loss and are trying their best. However, things are difficult between them. Grief can do that to people, it doesn’t always bring them closer together, it can also tear them apart. I appreciated that the book showed this other side of what can happen to friendships after a traumatic event. Not all of Lena’s friends reacted the same, one of them was more persistent and the other was drifting away, as she was holding on to some anger for Lena’s self-isolation. I liked that the book showed several perspectives, not only what Lena was going through, but also how it impacted her friends, who were also hurt and could have been someone to turn it, something that was hard for Lena because of her intense guilt. In addition to Lena’s friends we also see several of her classmates react to what was going on.
“One day you will just realize you’ve made it through this part of your life and you’ve accepted what cannot be changed. That is when you’ve moved on. It will feel like it happened suddenly, but in reality, it’s been a work in progress.”
Have you read If There’s No Tomorrow? Is there a book about grief that particularly moved you? 💗