These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips
Published by HarperTeen; scheduled for August 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
So much of how I feel can be summarized into one thought:
It is really special when a book tells you from the very beginning exactly what’s going to happen, and still makes you cry when it happens.
These Things I’ve Done ends the first chapter by telling you exactly what part Dara played in Aubrey’s death, and still, reading about it killed me. In the best way possible.
This book is so. Damn. Good. Y’all!
Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.
It’s been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn’t racked with guilt over her role in her best friend’s death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn’t half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, every day. Not just because he’s a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she’s betraying her best friend one final time.
One thing I find happening more and more as I read more YA is that I shout a lot. Seriously. I yell, probably two or three times a week, “TEENAGERS DON’T ACT LIKE THIS!”
Part of the magic of These Things I’ve Done is that Dara, our narrator, acts exactly how a kid in her position would. Now, I haven’t been in her situation. But her grief feels so real and natural and I was pulled right in. I felt it with her, and that’s what I need from a narrator. Dara isn’t always exactly likable, which to me is perfect, because who the hell would be? It’s just such a perfect depiction of pain and regret.
Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, is so great. He’s a perfect balance to Dara, because while he’s suffering the same loss, he chooses to handle it the exact opposite way. Their interactions are beautiful, in both the After and Before timelines.
We also get a lot of fun secondary characters like the members of Ethan’s band, who provide some lighter pages, which I love. I love a book that’s sad and then funny and then oh now it’s sad again but then look some comic relief and oh now I’m crying. Dara’s parents and brother, both together and individually, have their own character arcs so that’s wonderful.
I will say between Dara and Aubrey there’s some of that thing I hate where two main female characters deal with jealousy because one is prettier than the other, but it didn’t drive me nearly as crazy here because Dara isn’t particularly annoying about it.
Is gorgeous! I don’t say this often, but I feel here that every word is necessary. It’s never overly flowery, never the kind of rambling that makes me accidentally skip lines. It’s clear and concise but totally beautiful.
The chapters alternate between a current and past timeline. In the current, Dara has just moved back home after a year away following Aubrey’s death. In the past timeline, we watch the relationship between Dara and Aubrey adjust to Aubrey’s new boyfriend. We also get to get a feel for the dynamics between Aubrey and Ethan, and Dara and Ethan, before the incident. I tend to be really critical of alternating timelines, as it can go horribly awry, but it works here. We’re way more affected by Dara and Ethan’s grief because we’ve seen the Before picture.
It starts with a slow burn, building and acclimating you to the world. But about halfway through, it becomes irresistible. At the halfway point, I had to keep reading. The best compliment I can give a book (and its author)!
Me, for most of my free time today ^
Thanks so much to HarperTeen for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!
*Note: My reviews are full of opinions. I may love a book. May want to marry it like the kid in the commercial for Peanut Butter Crunch (1999 was a great year for cereal and commercials, look it up). I may say a book is the best thing to happen to me since I started shaving my big toe. None of these things mean it is objectively good. I recognize that. Many times throughout my life, I have given a book I swore to be a life-changer to a friend/girlfriend/boyfriend/lumberjack. Shaking, quietly weeping, I’d hand it (and my heart) over. Only to find out several weeks later that for them the book was good, maybe even great, but not the life-giving, soul-renewing magic I’d purported. You may not like a book I recommend. Sue me.
**Please don’t sue me, I just write here.