Review: Things I’m Seeing Without You | An Emotional and Funny Story about Grief

I have conflicted feelings about this book. One part of me loved it, one part of me didn’t like it and another part of me just wants to stop this review here and go to bed (I’m not gonna).

Things I’m Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni

Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after learning of Jonah’s death. Jonah, the boy she’d traded banter with over texts and heartfelt e-mails.

Jonah, the first boy she’d told she loved and the first boy to say it back.

Jonah, the boy whose suicide she never saw coming.

Tess continues to write to Jonah, as a way of processing her grief and confusion. But for now she finds solace in perhaps the unlikeliest of ways: by helping her father with his new alternative funeral business, where his biggest client is . . . a prized racehorse?

As Tess’s involvement in her father’s business grows, both find comfort in the clients they serve and in each other. But love, loss, and life are so much more complicated than Tess ever thought. Especially after she receives a message that turns her life upside down.

I’m gonna try really hard not to spoil you for the story, which is kind of hard. After Jonah dies, Tess is lost and depressed (which is never specified in the book but the signs really told me she was). I can’t say I liked Tess a lot. Of course, she was grieving, but she also was quite rude, and I felt, a little unrealistic. At some times she was a little annoying, and at other times she suddenly had the wisest revelations and thoughts, which seemed not to match very well.

Even though I could create total blackness in my room, my thoughts always seemed to glow in the dark. And sometimes, the only way to get them to dim was to tell them to someone.

Despite me not liking Tess a lot, I thought the story itself was both emotional and funny, it was a great mix between heavy and light topics. It talks a lot about death, but it is not depressing at all. It takes a lighter twist on the heavy topics, which was very refreshing to read. It made me think about things, that I had never considered before.

There was a little romance in the story, but it didn’t feel romantic at all. I shipped the characters but it was very straight-forward with no build-up. Another thing that I still don’t understand, is this one conversation in the story. A boy says he was in love with another boy, then defensively says he is not gay, because it was not sexual. This comes across to me as bi-phobia, which I am not okay with. I was hoping that somewhere further in the book he would elaborate on his sexuality, but he never did.

“Finish high school. Go to college. Find out what you want. Find out what you don’t want. Screw up a little more. Get your heart broken again. Try to be decent along the way. That’s how you make a life.”

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. It was engaging, funny and emotional. I read it almost entirely on the same day and it was very fun to do so, but there are some negative points that bugged me not only while reading it, but also after it. I can’t say this was an amazing book, like some other reviewers have done, but it wasn’t truly bad either. I’m a bit in the middle on it.

I am giving this book 3.5 stars, because despite the negative points, I did enjoy reading it. I would recommend this book if you want to read a book about grief and death that is not depressing. If you want to read something that is both fun and serious at the same time, this is probably something you’ll like.

Things I’m Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni comes out on October 3rd and you can find it on goodreads here.

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