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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blog Tour: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo | Review & Giveaway

Genre:
Young Adult, Contemporary, 
Publication.Date  August 26th 2014
Pages:352
Published By:  Random House Books for Young Readers
AuthorJennifer Longo

Six Feet Over It on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:


Home is where the bodies are buried.

Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.

Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?

(Goodreads)

I’m just a fourteen-year-old girl wearing jeans and a T-shirt trying to sell some graves, which—it’s just stupid. It looks stupid. I know this, Wade knows this, everyone knows this. It’s a really classy way to run a business, making your teenaged daughter sell graves because you’re too lazy to look farther than across the dinner table when searching for employees, but that’s Wade. No corner is too sacred to cut.
Computers have three purposes: porn, fifteen million ways for people to steal your identity, and government spying.
I’m not sure how else to convince her I am not a good candidate for friendship. I’ve been dismissive at best, at worst unkind, but she doesn’t seem discouraged. At all.
Her impossible likeness to Emily is strange and awful and not her fault, but still here she is, a Lego brick fit of an Emily replacement and I cannot. I will not.
I’m not good friend material.
I’m not good person material.
Suppressed grief suffocates, Ovid whispers, it rages within the breast and is forced to multiply its strength.
“I’m scared,” I say.
“Of what?”
“All of it. Everything.”
“Sure you’re not just lonely?”
I shake my head.
“Well,” he says, “what are you going to do about it?”
What am I going to do about it?



       Six Feet Over It is a story about a girl surrounded by death who is still trying to learn how to deal with loss. Death, in fact, is the recurring theme of this book, but it's life and learning how to live that is the essence of it. Thoughtful, poignant and undeniably hypnotizing, Six a Feet Over It is a tale about loss, grief, family, friends, letting go, finding happiness and opening your heart. 

     I'll be honest with you and admit that I did not, initially, like the passive-aggressive tone of this book. The first-person narrative was very dark, sarcastic, dripping with perpetual sadness and negativity, and I couldn't really understand why (but only at first). Some of Leigh's remarks and inner thoughts were genuinely amusing and clever, but the majority of them came across as very bitter and depressing (Every single moment I’ve been alive is directly related to and for the sole purpose of celebrating, defining, facilitating death.)

     Leigh is 14 years old (when the story begins) and forced not only to live in a graveyard, but also to work in the office there, selling coffins and resting spaces to people who just lost someone they loved. This is not an ideal environment for a very young teenage girl to grow up in and I can definitely understand and relate to her objections towards this kind of lifestyle. In fact, the more I read about her and the more I got to know her, her past and current situation, the more I sympathized with her. There is so much more to her character than meets the eye. She's snarky and seemingly negative about everything, because she's been badly burned before. She learned to guard herself, and this whole "I am cursed, back off" and "I don't want anything to do with anyone" attitude is just an act - a wall she built around her heart to protect it from being ripped open again. Between her sister's leukemia and their family starting a graveyard business, she's just exhausted - mentally and physically. And there's more, but to elaborate on that would be to spoil it for you. 

     In fact, Leigh is kind of a human-onion. The more layers you peel off, the more amazed you are by what you discover underneath, until before you know it, you're crying your heart out for her. Because, truth be told, she's a wonderful, caring, intelligent, loving, thoughtful, humble girl who would rather wear one pair of pink sweatpants forever and be mocked for it and laughed at, than to bother her parents about it and steal their attention from her sick sister. Yes, she is that kind of person and by the end of the story I loved her like a sister. 

    I enjoyed the first 3/4 of the story immensely, but the ending fell a bit flat for me. It was a good ending - inspiring, hopeful, positive - but I didn't think it brought all the answers I was looking forward to, and that kind of made me sad and disappointed. Not to mention that I sort of thought the entire story would go in a different direction all together and when that didn't happen, well, I guess I was a bit surprised. 

     While the overall theme of this book is rather sad and dark, the message it carries is a positive and meaningful one.  Embracing death, learning to grieve without punishing yourself for all the what-ifs and if-onlys, allowing yourself to be happy - these are just some of the very important messages conveyed in this book. All in all, Six Feet Over It is a heartfelt, remarkably well-written, sharp and powerful debut novel. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys complex, multi-layered characters, meaningful plot-lines and dark, clever sense of humor.


Guest Post:

Graveyard Working by Jennifer Longo


Working after school in a graveyard was probably one of the better jobs a young kid or teenager could snag in the 1980’s. No gross fast food kitchen, no boring uniform. We mostly picked up rocks to save the mover blades or planted bulbs to make the lawn colorful in spring. Unlike the characters in my book, my sisters and I never worked under duress. We were asked to help out, but it was really nice to have the spending money, and being out in the fresh air or running the lawn mower was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I only sold graves during one summer when my mother had had it with the horrible Sierra Nevada foothills heat and took off for the coast, and the usual secretary was on vacation.


            My father went in on buying the place with a couple of pals he ran marathons with, and some of their kids worked in the office, too, once in a while. The place was a giant ATM machine filled with graves, where errant adult children who could not get their shit together and find real jobs came back to again and again for some extra cash in between relationships/apartment leases/attempts at community college.
           
The reason it was hard for me as a child, at first, was because of two piggy-backed deaths I witnessed at close range right before the cemetery was purchased; one friend, one family. The family one I was allowed to mourn, but not too much, as I was too young to have been super close to the cousin who died and also I looked more like the side of the family not related to the cousin, so please clam it up and help your grandmother get lunch on the table. The other death was a classmate no one in my family had met, so my mourning her was a thing they mocked and described as ‘dramatic’. This person was buried in our cemetery, and it broke my heart to see her there while I picked up the rocks and planted the bulbs.
           
The summer I sold some graves was kind of nuts. The first person to come in was there for an At Need for his young son. The first selling scene of the Six Feet Over It is colored with moments of that day. Not. Good. The guy who worked digging graves at our cemetery was very nice to me that summer. He let me help him fill  graves in, work down into some. I sat on the edge and watched him dig. He was part of my family and still is. He never, ever made anyone feel dumb for mourning a death.  He was nice to all the visitors. Even this one couple who kind of drove me crazy.
They’d been driving with their two kids in the car, arguing about something and distracted, and they crashed the car. The parents lived. The kids died. They buried them side by side with a double headstone, photos of the kids aged six and four embedded in it and they came nearly every day, brought toys and pinwheels and Mylar balloons and hung crap in the trees; wind chimes and dream catchers and spinning wind ornaments made from beer cans.  Then they had another baby, and started bringing that kid with them to picnic on the grave and leave Tonka trucks and burn candles. I think what bothered me was the insincerity I perceived in their visits; it felt like a guilt-fueled show put on for….who? God? The other visitors? Each other? The local paper in case they happened to be hiding in the bushes waiting to snap paparazzi style photos?


            The gravedigger didn’t judge them like I did. He just said hello and sometimes hugged them, and kept mowing around the Lego set they were constructing on the headstone.


            I hated my parents making me feel stupid and embarrassed for being sad for my friend and cousin. I hated myself for being annoyed at the Lego parents. Mourning is a thing that happened unseen, inside our hearts, and expresses in a million ways a person sometimes can’t control or get a handle on. Patience goes a long way. Not acting like a know-it-all with a mourning person does, too. Imagine living every day, knowing your person has died in pain, or scared, or murdered, or from cancer, image you killed your own child.


I was a teenager - right there an automatic penchant for self-involvement. But in addition my capacity for empathy was scorched from never having had much offered to me, and so I had a severe deficit in what I could offer others. It took working in the cemetery, making friends with a gravedigger who straight up told me, “You don’t know what they feel. You don’t. Here, behind these gates, you just have to always, always be kind. Just be kind,” to refill the reservoir of patience and sympathy and empathy I’d let drain away. Sounds so simple, yeah? Be nice to people who just had a person they love die.


Be nice. Be kind. You don’t need to get a contact mourning high from their sadness, you don’t absorb it – you let it rest on your shoulders. You let people bring all the board games and wind chimes and fake flowers they want, and you pick them up when you mow and you put them back when you’re done because they are here to mourn and your job is to get out of the way and let them.

You don’t learn stuff like that working weekends at Jamba Juice. 


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YA Reads 9/1 


Giveaway:

Thanks to the wonderful Sadie and Random House Childrens we have one hardcover copy of Six Feet Over It up for grabs today!
US only, enter through Rafflecopter below:



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