Six Goodbyes We Never Said – Candace Ganger – Wednesday Books – Published 24 September 2019
Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.
Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.
Six Goodbyes We Never Said is an honest reflection of the complications and messiness of grief, an upfront and realistic portrayal of mental health and an ode to friendship and family, which can sometimes be as weird and tangled as it can be necessary and life saving. This book unfurls the journey of grief in a compelling and frank way, at times moving while other times delightfully amusing. It’s the perfect book for reflective readers or those who need something or someone to relate to when the world around them doesn’t reflect back what they see in the mirror.
Naima and Dew are what mainstream society would wrongly label as outsiders. Those who are different or who behave differently from society’s perception of acceptable or normalised behaviour. Both are struggling, not only under the heavy burden of grief so complex they can hardly speak of it, but with social anxiety (Dew) and the rituals and counting patterns (Naima) that has become a part of their every day existences. In each other they find someone who is facing the same complex emotional roller coaster.
When Naima, after the death of her Marine father, moves in with her grandparents, Dew, who live next door with his foster parents, is sure their shared grief makes them destined to be together. Naima is certain the boy next door with his voice recorder is someone she needs to avoid. She’s got enough going on, with missed birthday rituals, the urn of her father’s ashes sitting at the kitchen table and the numerous voice messages and letters from her father that she never responded to. But sometimes, grief shared can help and sometimes friendship can appear in the places you least expect it.
Naima and Dew are such honest, complex characters, and it was a delight to read their story. They couldn’t be more different, Naima in your face, brutally honest, Dew polite and so desperate to help others. Yet they are both consumed with their grief. Their friendship is unlikely, and stumbles and trips on its way from enmity (Naima) and blind hope (Dew) to something that is understanding and supportive.
Family, both the loss of and the gaining of, is a key theme of Six Goodbyes We Never Said. Watching Dew bond with his foster sister and foster parents, while still honouring and remembering the bond he had with his biological parents was lovely. And Faith, Dew’s foster sister, is so awesome and such a fantastic part of the book.
Six Goodbyes We Never Said, with its blend of humour, touching character development and poignant moments is both moving and funny. A great YA contemporary title I will enjoy recommending to readers.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Grief, death, mental health, OCD, social anxiety, family, foster parents, friendship.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Mature themes – attempted suicide, death. Coast language, f*** (9), sh** (33), bit** (2), as***** (1), pi** (2).
Published: 24 September 2019 by Wednesday Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.