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Summary: Bridget Flannery and Maureen O'Malley could be sisters. They were that close: they looked alike, they were best friends, they were always together. It was almost Christmas in Minnesota, and it was snowing. The girls were on their way to practice for a cheerleading event. Crash! Maureen's car hit a truck head-on. The driver was killed and the passenger, whose body was too mangled to recognize, was in a coma. Just as the town was overcoming their grief, they learned the truth: we have been mourning the wrong girl. This YA novel draws on a real-life event to build a story with insight for teens and adults.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and up; read yourself: 12 and up
Young Reader Reaction: All We Know of Heaven was a very touching story, but some portions were a little confusing. For instance, the story starts off with a thought monologue that is hard to wrap your head around. The thought process was short and difficult to follow the first time. After reading the background provided (afterward), it made more sense. Also, in the beginning of the novel, the character names were slightly confusing and some of the cast wasn’t quite introduced thoroughly. All the same, this emotional novel is a great read for teens 13 and older, All We Know of Heaven is a story with a message of hope and love. There were many aspects of this book that I enjoyed. The characterization was done flawlessly; every character had distinct personalities that were easy to understand and relate to. The drama incorporated within the storyline brought suspense and gave the reader a good idea of what it would be like living the scenario. It was a remarkable book to read and I know I would definitely buy this book for my own.
Adult Reader Reaction: The author has created a spell-binding, captivating story. While some may be familiar with the story, for those of us who don't watch morning TV, it was all new ... and more fascinating. I found myself sneaking ahead (more than once). This is an ensemble cast of characters, each with their own perspective and depth. The author does a masterful job helping you see the world from each of their perspectives.
Pros: Teens and adults alike will enjoy this well-written story that adds depth to what was a media-sensationalized tragedy.
Cons: None, really. The author dropped Leland as an event-based character about three-quarters of the way through. It would have been nice to see how things "ended up" for her.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. Although you know how things turn out after the first read, the characters are interesting enough that you may want to go back and see what you missed.
Educational Themes: In a classroom or peer-group setting, there is a lot to explore: friendship, exploitation, acceptance, tolerance, and grief are the obvious ones. The author introduces a few sideline characters that also show how jealousy, faith, hatred, and unrelated/unplanned events can affect one's life and choices.
Notes: The Reading Tub, Inc. reviewed an Uncorrected Proof version of this book.
Literary Categories: Fiction - Young Adult, death and loss, friendship