About the Book

Title: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Published: 2010
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

BFF Charm: Yay, Yay, A Thousand Times Yay!
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Drama Club, People Who Aren’t Liz Wakefield
Relationship Status: Co-Lead in the Big Show

The Deal:

Cass has been best friends with lovely, popular, brilliant Julia for most of her life. They’ve done everything together – or, more specifically, Cass has done everything Julia has done. Her friends, her enemies, her summer plans – all of them link back, in some way, to Julia.

But Julia has died, and Cass is adrift. Julia’s other, more talented friends, plan to stage the play Julia was writing when she died, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad, as a tribute, and they want Cass’s help. Cass is reluctant, partly because she doesn’t belong with the drama kids, and partly because the lead of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad is none other than her jr high nemesis, Heather, who used to torment Cass every day for being gay.

So Cass takes off for California on her bike, toting Julia’s ashes in a Tupperware container with her. On the way, she starts to find herself. But it isn’t till she gets back and works on Julia’s musical that she finds a measure of peace, true friends . . . and love.

BFF Charm: Yay, Yay, A Thousand Times Yay!

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

Maybe it was just too much Sweet Valley High. Maybe it is the lack of lots of LGBT-friendly YA. Maybe it’s because she’s a Quaker. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t really take shit from people, and tells them what she thinks. I don’t know, but I love Cass Meyer!

I would love to be BFF with this girl – so long as I’m not the BFF who tragically dies in a car accident, that is. And Cass needs a good BFF, one who will let her cry, and talk about Julia and her tangled feelings for her best friend, and maybe also about the growing crush she has on Heather. So, Cass, call me! We may not be able to watch any fun movies ever, cause of your parents’ whole “no violence” creed, but we can definitely get together and pour one out for all the friends we’ve lost.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cass and Heather’s relationship is pretty slow to build up. I mean, after all, Heather Mean Girled Cass for most of junior high, and that’s not something you can just get over easily (which I keep trying to tell my therapist!). But, while slow to bud, their relationship blooms in such a sweet, lovely, totally realistic way.

There’s not a lot of hot secksy kissing action, but there is all of that fluttery, unsure, slightly dramatic, tangled web of teenage (and, sadly, adult) crushes.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

This is Emily Horner’s first novel, and I love the way she roots her story in frank-yet-tender language. The book is told in alternating chapters of a flashback to Cass’s bike trip and the current-day preparations for Julia’s play, which Horner keeps balanced by giving Cass an authentic, slightly different – but not opposing – voice for each story.

Bonus Factor: Drama Club

Simon and Abby performing in the school production of Cabaret (Love, Simon)

I was never in Drama Club as a student. This was in part due to my other extra-cirriculars of journalism and drill team (stop laughing) keeping me busy, but it was mostly due to the fact that I have zero talent at, well, anything. But I have zero talent at acting, in particular. (Also I can’t tell my left from my right which made blocking even more difficult.)

But I still loved the drama kids because, even though they were total dweebs, they were a group of dweebs, which made them powerful and, in their way, cool.

The drama kids in this book are that exact mix of dweeb and cool; plus, they stage what is possibly the greatest high school musical in the world that isn’t called Tiny Dancer.

Bonus Factors: People Who Aren’t Liz Wakefield

Yes! I have made this a bonus factor! So, there! From now on, when someone is unlike Liz Wakefield, I shall celebrate this! Suck on it, Wakefield!

But, honestly, just last week I was complaining about the idea of taking a bike trip. And that is because A) I loathe exercise but also because B) I loathe Liz Wakefield and her horrible, entitled, perfect size six ass. But Cass, who is so heart-broken and grief-stricken and lovely . . . I just want to pack her some sandwiches and make sure her bike helmet fits before tearfully watching her ride away, knowing that she’s doing what she needs to do to heal. Oh, Cass! Be sure to call me from the road! Do you have enough money? Don’t accept rides from strangers, okay! I love you!

Relationship Status: Co-Lead In the Big Show

This book and I were thrown together to work on a crazy, madcap, drama-filled play. We didn’t know much about each other – it just showed up one day. But I was instantly intrigued by its secrets, and over the course of the play, we really bonded. We spent late nights stuffing our faces with Chick-Fil-A waffle fries before going back to rehearse a particularly dramatic scene, and even later nights confiding in each other while painting our toenails weird colors. And, over the course of the play’s run, we really got to know each other in a way that went beyond our differences and even beyond our similarities.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever do a play together again, but I know that I’ll always keep that playbill framed and on my bookshelf, and when I see it, I’ll remember what it was like to connect so quickly and so deeply to a stranger.

FTC Full Disclosure: My review copy was a free ARC I received from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!)A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend will be released June 10, 2010. (Buy it!)

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.