Book Review: Things I’m Seeing Without You

Things I’m Seeing Without You – Peter Bognanni – Dial Books – Published 3 October 2017 




Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she’d told she loved and the first boy to say it back.

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

My thoughts

This novel takes all the sadness and numbing grief of losing someone and presents it in such an upfront and honest way. Picturesque scenery, dry whit in the midst of heartbreak, broken families trying to heal and help in the only way they can, new beginnings, living funerals, dogs in rocket ships, and love – Things I’m Seeing Without You is brutal and beautiful. How is it that I spent so much time laughing while reading this book when it made me want to cry? Amazing.

Tess Fowler has dropped out of school in the wake of her boyfriend’s suicide, her grief and depression overwhelming. Sure, she only met Jonah once but all their online conversations in the past months were no less real or effecting than any face-to-face relationship. She loved him and his death has left her shaken. With nowhere else to go, she turns up on her father’s doorstep. In the following weeks, Tess begins to help her father run his funeral business and meets new people who change her life in ways she never saw coming.

Tess is a wonderful narrator. Her voice is unique, she is blunt, honest, has a fantastic whit and all her emotions come so clearly from the page. From her throwing her computer and then herself into a freezing lake, to her ongoing internal communication with Jonah, her fractured but healing relationship with her father, and her bluntness and upfront way of approaching her new relationship with Daniel, I never questioned her feelings – it was all so real and authentic and complicated.

Daniel enters Tess’ life in rather a surprising way. It doesn’t explain how in the book’s synopsis and so I won’t give spoilers here because I found it a huge surprise, something I totally didn’t see coming, but which yet adds another layer to this already complex and well-thought out novel.

Like so many wonderful books these days, Things I’m Seeing Without You raises several themes that are so vital for YA literature – suicide, grief and the grieving process, family breakdown, depression, death, and online relationships. These are all handled with such brutal honesty and careful consideration in this book. Combined with a sense of humour and scenes so crazy they were hilarious, Things I’m Seeing Without You is a powerful book, heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Suicide, friendship, online relationships, funerals, parents, father-daughter relationships, grief, depression, death, sex.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f*** (6), sh** (6), bit** (1), as*/ass**** (5). Frequent sexual references, descriptions of nudity, nude photos, sex scene with minimal details. References to alcohol consumption to excess and drug use. Mature themes, suicide.

Published: 3 October 2017 by Dial Books.

Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 336 pages.

ISBN: 9780735228047

Find it on Goodreads


  1. kozbisa

    Bummer. I thought this would be another grief book I could love.

    • Madison's Library

      Actually, I really enjoyed this book. I was a little confused about your comment until I realised that something had gone wrong with my formatting. I gave this book 4 stars, not two! It’s a really funny, beautiful book and so worth reading. So sorry for misleading you.

  2. misshoneybug

    I don’t know how to read this kind of books without crying. They are beautiful and sometimes full of wisdom but oh the feels. I will keep an eye on it, I agree that those themes are something vital for YA lit, thanks for the review 🙂

    • Madison's Library

      Yes, so sad and they can really hit you emotionally. I liked that this one also made me laugh, which was nice. Thanks for your comment.

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