Sunday, February 2, 2014

This Post is not about Dying, but about Living

Death is not convenient. Loss is not easy. As humans, we wouldn’t want it the other way around. We want to feel connections wholly, even if it means there will be emptiness when we lose someone.

Lose. A nuance of the English language. To lose someone, like they took a wrong turn on the way home from the grocery, or simply got separated in a crowd.

Maybe we use that word because the other one is too difficult to say. We’d rather not admit it to ourselves, let alone to others. Of course, maybe there’s also an innate hope that the loss is not irretrievable. That it can be reversed. That the person can be found again, someday.

In a time when I am experiencing loss, it occurred to me to make a list of YA books with themes of dying. The first book that popped into mind was The Fault in Our Stars. But then I remembered that somewhere, sometime, I heard someone (maybe John Green?) describe The Fault in Our Stars as a book that isn’t about dying, but about living.

Which sounds happier, more optimistic and all around better. Especially to me, right now.

So here are four YA novels, that aren’t about dying, but about LIVING:

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

In this hovering-at-the-edge tale, Mia chooses between life and death after a fatal accident claims her parents’ lives. When I finished If I Stay, I was reminded that every day we choose whether to live or die. It takes courage to make that choice. And courage to decide the extent to which we fulfill it.

The Sky is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson

When Lennie’s older sister dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted from the shadows to center stage of her own life. Upon finishing The Sky is Everywhere, I was reminded that it takes time to accept loss. It’s not something we come to terms with overnight. Losing someone affects us; it affects our decisions and how we view the world around us.


The Spectacular Now - Tim Tharp

When life-of-the-party Sutter meets social disaster Aimee, he takes it upon himself to show her how to live in the now. Of course, it doesn’t turn out how either of them expected. When it comes to The Spectacular Now, it’s really all in the name. It’s another way of saying: live in the moment. You can fret about the past and prepare for the future, but how you live in the present is life. It is being alive.


The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

Hazel Grace Lancaster is terminal, but when she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group, their heartwarming love leads their stories to be rewritten. When I set down The Fault in Our Stars, I stood up. I got in my car, picked up my boyfriend and drove to one of the settings mentioned in the book. TFIOS is that inspiring. It made me want to live. Right away.

The movie trailer, released this week, might give you some idea as to its power.

Okay, this got a little bit COMPLETELY DRENCHED in clichés. Sorry. #notsorry

But just one more, before I go: Live a life worth living.


This post is dedicated to my beautiful, strong grandmother, who passed away Friday after a long and joyous life.


  1. Sorry for your loss, Jamie. After I lost my dad many of the projects I doodled around with suddenly were worth doing NOW. We only have one lifetime—don't wait for some future time to think about doing something.

    1. Thanks, Erik. Your words mean a lot. And I agree on the 'don't wait' sentiment. I've been wanting to pick up my editing pace for a while but the motivation hasn't been there. Maybe this will be a kick in the butt for me.

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