Sunday, November 18, 2012

Snark, Devoted Dogs, and You Can't Ask for Much More!

Once in a while a book comes by that tells a story of a character you can relate to and empathize with so much, you feel like you have known them all your life. That is exactly how I felt about Sarah in J.J. Johnson's The Theory of Everything. I loved everything about this character and this book.

Sarah suffered an inconceivable tragedy; she lost her best friend Jamie in a horrible accident. But that isn't the worst part. The accident was Sarah's fault. Now SJD (Since Jamie's Death), she has become a different person, a person apparently no one enjoys being around, including her parents and her boyfriend Stenn. And to top it off? Her regular demeanor was replaced by a snark box that makes people stop feeling sorry for her and start getting annoyed by her. But regardless of how much Sarah just wants to be left alone to wallow in her misery, no one seems to want to leave her alone. The only creature who understands Sarah is Ruby, her rescued dog who knows just how to calm Sarah and exactly how to get her in trouble.

Feeling guilty, Sarah agrees to go to a party with Stenn, but she brings Ruby along as a buffer. When Ruby takes off through the woods and ends up in a creepy man's garage eating the very same deer carcass that crashed through the high school gym right in front of Sarah (bringing all the memories of Jamie's accident flooding back with a vengeance). When the creepy man shows up at Sarah's school, he offers her a chance to work off the lost meat by working on his Christmas tree farm. If she agrees, he won't tell her parents about where she was and how her precious dog went native. Sarah will do anything to protect Ruby, but she wasn't expecting hard labor to be just the thing she needed to truly begin to heal. Snark Box and all!

Oh, how I loved this book, let me count the ways! 1. Sarah and her snark box were just the kind of dry sarcasm I have been looking for in a main character these days. Coming from a family full of Snark Monsters, I appreciate a good snark box! 2. Sarah's grief was real, it was tangible, and it made me, the reader, grieve right along with her. Her reactions are expected and unexpected at the same time, the very nature of grief personified. It was beautiful and painful, all wrapped up together. 3. There was no attempt to romanticize or glorify Sarah's relationship with Emmett, Jamie's twin brother. In a cheaper, cheesier YA novel, they would have realized their love for one another and ridden off into the sunset. In this book? They are both suffering. They need each other. But it isn't about some forced romance. It is friendship, understanding, and a mutual love for someone they both lost. 4. Stenn was a good guy. He really was! He was, months after Jamie's death, growing weary of Sarah's actions and unable to understand why she couldn't move on, but he was patient, he loved her, and he was devoted. He wanted the best for her, but he was human and humans can grow impatient eventually. Even when he grew impatient, though, he was always just a boy who cared about her and wanted to see her smile again. 

This is one of those books that just makes your literary hairs stand on end. I loved every single page, every description, and every bit of dialogue. I am so very impressed with Johnson's portrayal of this young woman who just can't survived in a world SJD. It reminded me of Green's Fault in Our Stars and Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere not because they are similar stories, but because the characters are so real and the situations are so bitter-sweet you can picture yourself doing and saying exactly what the authors have written. This is a story for so many different people. Basically, if you know someone with a heart who needs a good book, pass this along. You won't be sorry. Snark and all, this was quite the masterpiece!

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