What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Meet Me at the River is about a teen girl struggling with grief after an accident kills the boy she loves, who's also her stepbrother. Tressa even tries to kill herself and ends up temporarily in a mental hospital. The book mentions an adult character's suicide and a teen girl who cuts herself. There's some sexual material, including a scene in which a boy walks in on his father having sex. Tressa and Luke don't have sex, but they do kiss and lie naked together, and Luke had sex with his previous girlfriend. Parents could use this book to open discussions about grief, depression, and suicide.
What's the story?
After her boyfriend dies in an accident, Tressa isn't sure she wants to live and even attempts suicide. Now, instead of going to college with Luke, she's repeating her senior year, while her flaky mother and cold stepfather await a new baby. Tressa's happiest moments come when Luke's ghost visits her at night. They can talk about anything that happened before his death, but nothing that's happened since. As Tressa starts to make friends, she finds reasons to live in the present.
Is it any good?
Tressa's whole family situation in MEET ME AT THE RIVER takes some sorting out: Her mother and Luke's father had a set of twins before splitting up, then got back together years after Tressa and Luke were born on the same day to different mothers. The reunited parents are understandably unhappy about the step-siblings' romantic relationship. Unrealistic and complicated as this might seem, it does set up Tressa and Luke as fated -- and doomed -- lovers.
Although it seems as if it could easily feel clichéd, the ghost story is actually sweet and sad. It's Tressa's story, though Luke and Tressa take turns narrating. Readers will empathize with her daily struggle with grief after Luke's death and her sharp insight about life's randomness: "All my life...I felt like I could never be sure of anything. When the truth is, that's how everybody lives. Nobody can be certain, ever, not for a single second." Maybe the story goes on a bit long, but Meet Me at the River offers a sophisticated and satisfying look at loss -- and what it takes to move on afterward.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about stories featuring ghosts. How does the ghost in this story compare to the ones in other stories you've read?
Should authors writing for teens be concerned about romanticizing dangerous behaviors like cutting and suicide attempts -- or just write about grief as accurately as possible?
In Meet Me at the River, a young teacher's response to a girl who's cutting herself gets him fired. What would you do in his place?