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The End or Something Like That

Review

The End or Something Like That

THE END OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT won me over with its title. It was catchy, it was grabbing and it clued me into what the book was going to be about before I even read the synopsis. And the synopsis itself was a winner.

Emmy and Kim have been inseparable since they were little. So when Kim finds out that her heart is not doing so well, she thinks that their closeness would be a constant, even in death. In the year before her death, Kim meticulously and obsessively plans with Emmy how they’re going to talk to each other after Kim’s death. But in the year following Kim’s death, Emmy hasn’t talked to her at all. Instead, ghosts of people she never wanted or thought she’d see visit her: her dead teacher, a boy from school, Kim’s dead uncle. Told in alternating chapters of the year before and the year after Kim’s death, THE END OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT is extremely endearing.  I was a little nervous about reading yet another novel about grief and death, but there was something quirky about a story about two young girls who try to plan out their otherworldly communication when one passes away.

Emmy is impossible not to fall in love with --- her perspective and voice draw you in and you can’t help but feel for her.

Ann Dee Ellis writes about grief and death from the point-of-view of a very honest and interesting character. Emmy is impossible not to fall in love with --- her perspective and voice draw you in and you can’t help but feel for her. She’s unsure of herself and I love that she doesn’t have everything figured out. Because she spent most of the year following Kim’s death trying to communicate with her dead best friend, she became even more lonely and more of an outcast than before. Even though she’s ostracized in school, her parents don’t understand her and she has no friends since Kim died, she remains faithful and loyal to the plans that she and Kim made to try to talk. She lugs a bag of Kim’s favorite stuff and reads a book by a fake spiritual coach to try to facilitate their ghostly contact. Even though her attempts fail, there is a level of humor that is balanced throughout the book. The whole thing is absurd, and Emmy realizes it and comments on it quite often. How is that she can talk to dead people she didn’t even know but she can’t talk to the one person she needs to hear from most in the world?

While reading this, I was reminded of the book by Libba Bray GOING BOVINE, which deals with death but in a really hysterical and offbeat way (the main character is dying of Mad Cow’s disease and goes on a road trip with a hypochondriac, an angel and a garden gnome to cure it). If I had to read another novel about dying and grieving, I’m glad it was this. Ann Dee Ellis confronted readers with the truth of losing someone but did it in a way that makes you laugh until you cry. The book is extremely present; it’s brimming with pop-culture references that just fit it perfectly.

Also, for a 350-page novel, it moved remarkably fast. Almost too fast, sometimes. I don’t want to spoil too much but there are certain things that sneak up on you in the novel that I wish had more time to see established. There were certain characters that could have also used more page time. For example, Skeeter and Baylor Hicks, two boys that kind of snuck up on Emmy and the reader, could have used a few more lines dedicated to them so that they felt more involved. Also, I wish we had gotten more interactions between Emmy and the ghosts. Like I said, there was a certain level of absurdity that I think could have been spread out a bit. Emmy’s reactions to her dead teacher and the other ghosts she saw were golden, and I really would have liked to see more of it. Similarly the reveals of certain things felt a bit rushed. Ann Dee Ellis connects things from the year before Kim’s death and the year after in a way that seems too fast. If you weren’t paying attention, you might miss their significance. However, despite my misgivings, I loved the closure we got at the end. I think it was a fantastic way to end the novel and one that felt satisfying for Emmy’s (and Kim’s) journey.

This novel could have been overly sentimental but it wasn’t. The short chapters and young tone allowed for a particularly fun read about a subject that definitely isn’t fun. I came away loving it and was so happy that the title attracted me in the first place.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on May 14, 2014

The End or Something Like That
by Ann Dee Ellis