Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.
Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.
When high school senior Matt realizes that working at the local chicken joint might mean cleaning up vomit, he reluctantly accepts a job at the neighborhood funeral parlor the same one where his mother's funeral was just held. To Matt's surprise, he finds relief in watching funerals and seeing how mourners handle their grief, and he begins to grow closer to the funeral home's owner, a local character. As he did in When I Was the Greatest, Reynolds portrays Brooklyn's largely African-American Bed-Stuy neighborhood convincingly; Matt and his family are lower middle-class, as are their neighbors, but gangs and violence are a presence, as well. Coincidences and plot twists (including a car accident that conveniently helps Matt's grieving father address his drinking problem) detract from the impact of the story as it develops. Romantic interest Lovey, a very appealing girl Matt meets at her grandmother's funeral, doesn't come on the scene until halfway through the book, and the wait feels long. An affecting story of a teenager's path through pain, but one whose faults offset its strengths. Ages 12 up.