I have to be honest - I had some major problems with Undone
. This novel tells the story of Jemima, Jem for short. Her best friend, Kai, has just committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying, and she is left behind. She is at the end of her rope when Kai's sister delivers a package to her. Inside are notes, one for each month of the year, left for her by Kai. As she reads them, she decides to take her revenge on the group of popular kids she believes drove him to his suicide. Her method? To become one of them, and hurt them from within.
I almost didn't start this book. It seemed like it might be a message book, and I find those are often heavy-handed. But Jem seemed (at first) to be an interesting character, so I stuck with it. The whole revenge plot is basically Mean Girls,
not that there can't be another, but I found it distracting.
Kai is, unfortunately, a bit of a Magical Gay Person
. He comes across less of a real person than a convenient plot device. Naturally he is an expert on ladies (going so far as to give Jem a makeover from beyond the grave
. His letters really bothered me - they didn't feel a bit like someone who was about to tragically end their life. I just didn't think that the character would have spent the time to write out chatty notes in which he gives hair and makeup advice while contemplating his own gruesome death in a few hours. In fact, I had a hard time believing his suicide at all. I know that suicide is an act that doesn't often make sense from the outside, but as someone who actually had a close friend commit suicide for similar reasons (minus the online bullying, obviously, as I am old) it didn't seem real.
I appreciate positive portrayals of gay teens. I think it's very important for gay or questioning young people to be able to read about teens in similar situations. What I don't think is helpful? The number of times the gay characters in these books wind up dead. I would never recommend this book to a gay teen (what would I recommend? Well, I'd start with [b:How to Repair a Mechanical Heart|16102490|How to Repair a Mechanical Heart|J.C. Lillis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1350926753s/16102490.jpg|21913214]. This book shows teens struggling, but also living
. And it's funny. Sometimes I just can't read another tragic book.)
Speaking of that, I hated the ending (ending details behind spoiler tags) Seriously? That's the ending? I saw the twist coming from the first time Max was introduced, so I don't know how that was a shock. But I was really upset by Jem's death, though I didn't ever connect with her. It just felt like tragedy for the sake of a sad ending, and I was not down. It didn't feel organic for her character, who ended up in the same place she started, as though the middle of the book hadn't happened.
It's hard to write a negative review of a book that has a message that can't be argued with (anti gay bullying). I must mention that the writing itself was good, and I would certainly read another book by this author. It's really more Jem's story than Kai's, but I was unable to get past his character. I wouldn't recommend it, but I will seek more from the author!