Sometimes, especially when I’m stressed, I like to re-read books from my past. Julie Deaver’s Say Goodnight, Gracie is one of my favorites to go back to.
Because my middle school didn’t have a library, teachers kept books in their classrooms. I found this in a plastic box. The title tugged at me; it sounded so sweet and sad. And when I read the synopsis, I knew this was a book I needed to borrow. “There are friends we can’t imagine living without,” the first line on the back cover read. Indeed. Growing up, friends, next to family, were everything.
But how do you live when your everything dies? It’s an answer Morgan tries to find when her best friend Jimmy is killed by a drunk driver.
They have been inseparable since birth, and the memories Morgan has of their time together highlight how incredibly special Jimmy was to her—how special they were to each other. Her narrations are candid and realistic and the dialogue is true.
Julie Deaver fleshes out the two friends very well, giving them each their own unique traits: a love for Fred Astaire, a fear of needles, lanky and laid-back, proud and self-conscious. I came to care for these two teenagers—two kids who are very much like you and me with dreams and faults. Deaver brings their friendship to life, allowing me to understand how close it is.
Though I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about some of the references the two make (i.e. Goodnight, Gracie), I enjoyed it because, no matter how much I read of Morgan’s inner thoughts, I know I can’t ever fully understand the pain she’s going through. I can’t break into what they had together. It’s like friendships in real life.
Despite that, I understood enough, cared enough, to laugh and to cry and to smile sadly. Julie Reece Deaver portrays Morgan’s journey from grief and heartbreak to acceptance and healing very well–so well that I think you’ll eagerly join to see her through it and to see yourself move on too.
One vivid memory I have of reading this book: running to the bathroom. At a certain part, I cried so hard that my sisters and my mom questioned me about it. The questioning made me bawl even more. I was so shocked, so hurt, and so sad that I didn’t want to be around anybody but Morgan. I ran to the bathroom, locked myself in, and finished reading there.
Soon after I borrowed the book, I bought one for myself. Years later, my edition is slightly worn. The cover is a little bent and the pages colored with age. I’ve had it since 6th grade. But even now, even when I flip it to a random page, I cry.
Samantha Bagood is a freelance writer and designer and a student at Appalachian State University. You can find her at www.samanthabagood.com. She is currently writing her first novel.