Sunday, September 20, 2009
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/4865438]
ALA Rainbow List, Young Adult Fiction (2009)
M(arianne) and O(pal) have been friends for as long as either can remember; their mothers were friends before that. M is only half black to O's plain-old black, which matters in their teeny Pennsylvania town. She ditched O to gain popularity and is now the first black Homecoming Queen the county's ever seen. When she dies shortly after the homecoming dance, the loss is too much for O. Though she feels like she lost M a long time ago, she's really gone this time.
Review: full of spoilers this time, but this book isn't really about suspense or the revelation of facts, so it shouldn't hinder the enjoyment of the read.
I wouldn't have even picked up M+O 4EVR if it hadn't been for Daisy's blurb about it over on her QueerYA blog. I thought the title held the promise of a book full of text-speak. It doesn't. M+O 4EVR is written in hearts on many of the places important in M and O's childhood: their tree and the backseat of O's Grandma's car, for example. It would be sweet if it weren't so sad. M is dead by the end of the second chapter, and the rest of the book is told in O's heartbroken voice. Her rememberances of their relationship and the way she deals with M's death are interwoven in a way that is realistic. Unfortunately that doesn't always do much to help the reader's understanding of the story.
We know from the beginning that O is in love with M and has been for a while. Whether M returns that affection is pretty unclear for a lot of the book. What does become clear is that everyone who is important in O's life knows that she has just lost the love of her young life in a really horrible way. The support she receives from her Grandmother, who she lives with while her parents each travel separately for work; Drippy, her grandmother's boyfriend; and her mom and dad, who each return home for M's funeral and to be with O; is really wonderful. Even M's mom, who did not approve of M and O's relationship once it moved beyond a close friendship, breaks down and apologizes for trying to ban O from her house in the face of her grief.
Interwoven through the story of O and M is the story of Hannah, a runaway slave who either died in or flew over the ravine that claims M's life so many years later. At first her story, which O's grandmother told to O and M when they were little, doesn't seem to have any connection to O's grieving other than that she heard it with M and they talked about it growing up. As each story unfolds, we learn that M initiated the move from friendship to romance at the same time that we learn that Hannah fell in love with the Native American, who she calls Mine, helping her travel north to freedom. Still, I didn't necessarily feel that one story needed the other, though both were really sad love stories that ended very similarly.
This slim little volume is very complicated. The whole thing spans maybe a week at the most in O's life, really getting into her conflicting emotions and the ups and downs of her early grieving process. Though the reactions and feelings in this book are very real, I would hesitate to give it to someone who has just lost a loved one. It's almost too real to be comforting. It would, instead, be a good resource for someone hoping to comfort a grieving loved one.