Jul 9, 2012
Title: The Worst Thing She Ever Did
Author: Alice Kuipers
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Publication Date: August 15, 2009
My New Year’s resolution: I’m moving on from everything that’s happened. I’m not going to talk about it, think about it, let the memory pounce upon me like a waiting tiger, nothing.
All Sophie wants to do is forget. But it’s not easy now that everything’s changed. The house feels too big, school drags on for too long, lights are too bright, the room spins, and her hands get sweaty for no reason. And she can’t remember why she was ever best friends with Abigail, who is obsessed with parties and boys. Only the new girl, Rosa-Leigh, with her prose poems and utter confidence, might understand. But talking to her seems impossible.
Lost in memories of the life she once had, Sophie retreats into herself. But there’s only so long she can keep everything bottled up inside before she explodes. Maybe by confronting the tragedy of her past she’ll figure out how to fix her future.
For one, it’s about a girl dealing with the death of her sister. I never seem to be able to relate to characters who are dealing with the death of a sister (and there are quite a few books out there like that), which I guess is because I have a lot of brothers, but no sisters, and a lot of male cousins, and only a lone female cousin who’s a lot older than me. So I literally just do not understand the experience of having a female family member close in age to me and what it would be like to lose them. I have nothing to draw from. And, yeah, yeah, maybe a good author should be able to make me understand, but I’m still going to leave this point alone because I think in my case it’s more a fault in myself with my unwillingness to connect to the situation.
The other thing this book had going against it is that it’s written in diary entries. Save for a distinct few, I really, really dislike epistolary novels. And I think this is because not a lot of books I have read in this form have really embraced the diary entries as a literary technique, something that has an actual impact on the novel.
This point of the diary entrances I will expand on because I think Kuipers really embraced the epistolary technique and it worked for THE WORST THING SHE EVER DID. Yes, the author made me like a form I usually hate.
Sophie’s therapist, Lynda, has given Sophie a notebook so she can write down what she’s feeling and hopefully start to understand and come to terms with her sister’s death. Sophie won’t talk about her sister to anyone. Not to her mother, not to her friends, not even to her therapist. (Side note: This is why I think the alternate title, LOST FOR WORDS, is also really appropriate for the book).
Something about Sophie using a diary to come to terms with the most traumatic event of her life makes the book feel very true. Because she’s writing diary entries, there’s not so much a firm plot to the book, but rather a string of events that come together in a logical way to develop Sophie’s eventual healing. Because Sophie is writing her thoughts down, we directly get to see her unwillingness to talk about the event that killed her sister, as well as how that unwillingness to talk has negatively affected all her personal relationships.
I thought this book was a great exploration of how trauma affects relationships. Sophie felt very real and I immediately connected with her and felt for her. Because of that, I was never really annoyed with her when she was being silent on what happened with her sister. I understood her actions. I think it would be easy to condemn Sophie for the way a lot of her relationships basically go in the toilet, but that’s the thing about trauma. It’s tricky. It’s hard to know the right way to navigate relationships when going through a rough time, especially when you’re young, and Kuipers wrote Sophie in such a relatable way that I found it hard to condemn her.
(On the flip side, the inclusion of Rosa-Leigh as a constant and reliable friend for Sophie was a nice way to balance out the other friendships, and kept the book from becoming unbearably sad).
All in all, I thought this was a great book with great characters that explores how trauma effects relationships. I would recommend it to contemporary YA lovers. However, this is a “quieter” book, so if you’re looking for a book with a standout plot, this isn’t it.