This novel alternates "Now" and "Then" sections. In "Then," teenage Cass bicycles across America with her best friend's ashes. In "Now," she has returned from her trip and is facing everything she tried to flee via road trip: high school, her friend's death, and the bully who called her a dyke in front of the entire school and now has inexplicably been given the starring role in Cass's he dead best friend's musical, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.

A sweet, poignant high school lesbian romance and coming-of-age story which also partakes of one of my least-favorite YA genres (my dead best friend) and one of my most-favorite (backstage drama). The former is well-done and non-moralistic; the latter is totally sweet. (Especially the excerpted song lyrics.) The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and the climax to the "Then" section, in particular, was beautifully orchestrated and moving.

One of my favorite things about the whole book is that Cass, the heroine, is a Quaker, which affects her worldview in interesting, believable ways. I also liked that her parents are supportive and she doesn't rebel against them and her culture just because she's a teenager in a YA novel.

The main flaw was that many of the supporting characters were thin. While I believed in her theatre pals as a group, as individuals, there was not much to them. For instance, all we ever learn about Lissa is her ethnicity, that she's quiet, and that she's a vegetarian. Also, some of the dialogue would have been unusually self-aware and emotionally sophisticated coming from twenty-somethings, let alone supposedly socially awkward teenagers.

Overall, however, I liked this a lot. I leave you with these main selling points: 1. Teen lesbians. 2. Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad: The Musical.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend (Only $6.80 on Amazon.)
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