All We Know of Heaven
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book follows the aftermath of a car wreck with two teenage girls, one of whom dies. The survivor struggles to re-learn how to walk, talk, and care for herself. Mitchard also shows the dark side of the community's response to the accident, as friends exploit the media exposure and the family of the dead girl blames the one who lived. Topless cell phone pictures are even posted on the Internet. Teens in committed relationships have sex using birth control.
What's the story?
On their way to a cheerleading competition, 16-year-old best friends Bridget and Maureen are hit in a collision. The driver dies; the passenger, who was thrown 30 feet from the vehicle, survives, but is in a coma. With switching narrative perspectives, the reader enters the girl's head (she wonders if \"maybe being dead took getting used to, like cold water or the dentist\"), along with her parents, boyfriend, and friends. When she wakes up with brain damage, the girl can barely talk, but she tries to communicate one thing: I'm not who you think I am.
Is it any good?
Readers expecting an after-school special melodrama or a maudlin cautionary tale will instead find a layered, warts-and-all story here. It relates the impact of a car crash not only on its two victims but their families, friends, and whole community. Named an honorary prom princess, even the survivor knows it's just "because this thing happened to me." And with a modern, sick twist, someone posts a picture of her "smiling shyly in her tiara, on top of a gross topless photo on MyPlace."
Mitchard's imagery (purgatory is "sort of heaven's mudroom") and the omniscient narration gives intriguing insight into how events and people are perceived, but it also distances the reader instead of allowing them to get lost in the story. The momentum slows during the recovery, with an on-again, off-again romance woven in as the teens try to deal with the crash's repercussions. But the slower moments help readers develop a connection with sweet Maureen, who kisses a boy because she likes it and says whatever pops in her head because "in the brain, out the mouth."
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the elevated risks for new teen drivers and reiterate safety tips. You can also talk about Internet etiquette. Have you ever seen damaging photos or comments posted of friends? What did they do about them? Also in the book, what role did the media have, if any, in the negative behavior that followed the accident? Can you think of real-life situations when the news media spawned more negative reaction from the public?