Book Review #30: Letting Go by Carrie Lange

TW: This review contains mentions of intense grief and suicide. Please read with caution if you struggle with these topics.

When Dan put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, he hoped his life was over. He was so ready to be done, to free his fiancee from being engaged to such a weak, hideous man. What he didn’t know was that his death would be the beginning of something much darker.

Anne, left alone after Dan’s death, will struggle with her own darkness in order to come out the other end of her grief. Letting Go follows her path through unimaginable despair, a world of hallucinations and spirits, and a loneliness that no one can comprehend.

Hopefully Anne can remember this– “Life means hope. You are worth saving. Don’t give up–” before she too pulls the trigger.

Letting Go by [Carrie Lange]

I’m used to be a crier. When I was pregnant with my son, I vividly remember crying at the sight of a chipmunk crossing the road because it was, and I quote, “was just so cute.” The first book that made me really CRY– not just shed a tear, but violently sob– was Looking for Alaska by John Green. I can still visualize myself in the car on our way down to the beach. Sobbing. I cry when I’m mad. When I’m upset. When I’m happy. But, more often than not, those emotions have to be really intense. I don’t cry near as much as I use to. Books don’t move me as strongly as they used to.

I say all this to make it abundantly clear– I finished this book with a knot in my throat. I read the author’s note with fat, ugly tears rolling down my face. Yes, this was a powerful, moving, dark, spine-chilling read, but it was also real. That was the final nail in the coffin (“You’re really joking at a time like this?” -Bo Burnham) for me. Those god-awful words “every ‘real’ thing that happens in this story is exactly how I experienced it”– that’s what got me.

Because this books is horrifying. Not boo-scary. I wasn’t wanting to hide under the covers or leave the lights on. No, no. In our book club, I said it was like a car wreck. You really want to look away, but you just can’t. That’s not to say I forced myself to finish the book. Lord, no. My brain wouldn’t have let me stop if I wanted to. I absolutely had to see this through. I was clinging to every single word.

The “real” storyline follows Anne– a tortured soul who is dealing with the unimaginable grief that follows the loss of her husband. People constantly tell her to “just move on, he was only your boyfriend.” They ignore her. Don’t reach out or ask her what she needs. Anne wastes away for months without a single human soul to lean upon.

The “paranormal” storyline follows Dan– who simply cannot forgive himself for leaving Anne in this position and subsequently can’t move on because of his guilt. Dan meets the spirit of Tar (who tries to help him move on) and Rale (who seems to embody despair itself and clings to Anne as she spirals downward). He’s forced to watch helplessly as the woman he loves plans her own death.

I was more attracted to Anne’s storyline.

Because her grief is so REAL. Her experiences are so heartbreaking. The absolutely beautiful prose that is used to paint these horrible emotions that she feels. It’s all…. amazing. I honestly can’t think of another word to describe what I’m talking about. I’m sort of at a loss for words.

Instead, how about I tell you what I learned from this.

  1. Grief is a spectrum. There are different levels to it, and just because I think I’ve experienced it before doesn’t mean I can understand EVERYONE’S grief. There’s no one-size-fits-all glove that can just be stamped on top of it. No one pill to fix it all.
  2. I need to stop saying, “I understand what you’re going through” and instead ask, “How can I help you? I’m here for you. Let me help.” Because let’s be honest– I don’t exactly understand. Instead, let’s focus on offering someone a helping hand to lift them out of this. Anne deals with so many people telling her to just get over it. That’s not unrealistic. I mean, I’ve been told that before when dealing with hard times. Why not just try to be there for people, no matter what they’re going through?
  3. Depression, like grief, is a spectrum. My experience with it isn’t the same as someone elses.
  4. Dealing with depression, of any level or severity, does not make you weak. “Say it louder for the people in the back, Amy.” DEPRESSION DOESN’T MAKE YOU WEAK! It just means you have to work a little bit harder. That you might have to ask for help. That your brain needs to be managed a bit differently. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having that diagnosis.
  5. Suicide, while it might seem like a solution in the moment, never truly is. To quote Lange, “When a person commits suicide, their pain doesn’t end. They just hand it over to the people who love them most.” It’s easy to think, Oh, they’ll forget about me pretty quick or they’ll be better off without me. I’m guilty of that second one. The truth is that they won’t be better off. They won’t forget. Your unanswered questions haunt them. The gaping hole you left will destroy them.
  6. We need to remove the stigma we’ve given to suicide. Instead of dancing around it and telling everyone that it’s a shameful way to die, let’s teach children and adults how to deal with those shadowy emotions. How do I quiet the intrusive thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough? How do I convince myself that people do care about me and I’m not really alone? Suicide needs to be something we discuss. It’s not shameful. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s so common that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for letting it get this far.

I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s close with this:

Letting Go by Carrie Lange is an absolutely heartbreaking read that takes you through the all-too-real world of grief and suicide. It’s packed with beautiful prose that will make you feel things, whether you like it or not. It’s definitely not a read for the faint of heart, but anyone who is strong enough– like Anne and Lange– to embark on this journey will most definitely benefit from every moment. I’ve learned so much from reading this book.

I hurt. I raged. I cried.

But then, I smiled with the hope that Anne was going to be okay.

I’ll end with this quote, “Hang on for one more day. Life means hope. You are worth saving. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Please, don’t give up.”

If you or someone who know struggles with suicidal thoughts, help is always available to you. Call (800) 273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are not alone.

You may purchase this book on Amazon here. All proceeds go to support the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Help Lange end the stigma.

Book Review #29: Resonance by Nicholas Dabideen

In a post-pandemic world, technology is king. Equipped with the fully automated CHIPS, humanity relies entirely on the new computers they have inserted in their wrists. It can do everything. If you don’t have a CHIP, you’re seen as an outcast. 

Sage has always seen himself as different. He yearns for the peace of a chip-less world, for the human connections that people made before computer screens replaced face to face conversations. When he decides to take a much needed vacation to Hawaii, something out of this world answers his calling. A strange artifact reveals itself to him, and Sage is thrown headfirst into a world that feels more paranormal than real.

Dabideen’s writing is very smooth. This was a splendidly easy, engaging read, filled to the brim with pop-culture references and intelligence. Dabideen does an excellent job of world building and painting the image of a sprawling, futuristic metropolis. The only downside to the city? An evil (or is it really?) AI at the center of it all. 

Resonance raises some important questions, ones that science fiction has been asking for decades. How far is too far when it comes to technology? Is there a way for tech and spirituality to coexist peacefully? What does technology take away from us, and is there a way to ever truly get it back? To be honest, it’s a lot for one book to tackle, and at times, the writing feels a bit preachy. It dragged on, digging into the bigger questions, when I was just really into the plot. 

Speaking of the plot, I liked it! That’s a shallow answer, I know. It started off kind of slow. By the midway point, though, where we get an insight into the Nile company and the Second Moon (the corporation that runs the CHIP program and the massive satellite that houses the data collected from the CHIPS, respectively), things really started picking up. I care more about Sage and his friends than I did about answering all those metaphysical questions. 

The biggest issue for me, though, is actually an easy fix. The story is told in third person narration. It helps the reader see different points of view as we travel between Sage and the Second Moon. About halfway through, though, the author switches to first person. I was caught off guard by the sudden change, but I preferred the first person POV. This may have been an intentional shift, following Sage’s sudden connection with the “alien” object that appeared to him. I don’t think it was, though. My advice would be to tackle a rewrite and pick a POV to stick with. First person would work best, I believe! That’s just preference, though. 

Overall, worth a read! I definitely enjoyed it. Well done, Dabideen. 

You can buy Resonance here:

Book Review #28: She Named Me Wolf by Tenkara Smart

On his journey through life, Wolf goes through too much: his father’s alcoholism, his mother’s crippling fear, his brother’s carelessness, his isolation at school. Yet, he’s never truly alone. Since he was a child, his best friend has been a spiritual entity named Polly. The Japanese ghost helps him to navigate the treacherous waters of life at home and his often visions and abilities. You see, Wolf can not only travel through time to visit his past self– a Japanese samurai named Junsako– but also talk to the animals that live around his Australian home.

Together, with his friends’ help, Wolf might survive his father’s horrific abuse, but it won’t be easy.

She Named Me Wolf (The Many Lives of Wolf, #1)

Smart’s writing is simply gorgeous. There was never a moment went I felt detached from the story. I was right beside Wolf as he went on innumerable adventures with Polly and the crew. We went on a trip to visit native americans, fought a shark in the bathtub, went to a pool party with ants, traveled to ancient Japan to watch a samurai… I could go on for ages. The nostalgia that came with reading this touching third-person narration was breathtaking. I was absolutely enraptured.

The characters themselves are so beautifully written as well. They each have their faults, and even when it’s frustrating, they even have redeeming qualities. As you can tell from the synopsis above, the obvious antagonist is Wolf’s father. The reader is meant to dislike him instantly. Hate him, almost. I found myself growing more and more frustrated with Smart for trying to give this horrible man a good side. I understood the purpose, but I didn’t want to understand or like him. (PS: It didn’t work. I hated him even more as the story went.) You feel for the individuals, though. I almost cried for Wolf, I wanted to scream at his mother, and I could have honestly throttled his father. Then, I thanked his neighbors, his sensei, Polly… I could go on for ages.

Yet, I had to bump the story down one star, and I’ll tell you why. I never recovered from an incident that occurs around 80% mark. It was almost too dark to handle, and it was extremely sudden, unexpected, and, well, a bit triggering. It knocked me sideways so hard that I found it hard to keep going. I wanted the ending to bring back the magic, but I was just too depressed from what Wolf did that I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I liked. I guess that’s part of the point (which is why I didn’t bump this down to a three). The story is supposed to be dark, I know that. Such is the reality of the lives that some children in the world lead. No one wants to see that bleak nature. It’s real, though. God, it’s so real.

I honestly don’t have a valid solution for this issue. A trigger warning would have ruined the surprise and shock that I felt when the scene came, but at the same time, I needed it. *sigh* Anywho, it’s a 4 out of 5 stars for me (which translates to an 8 out of 10 on the Amy Scale). I really, really enjoyed it up until that point. Very well done.

Book Review #27: Skid Kids by Michael Franz

Zander is a mutant. Not by choice. Westport made him this way; President Crowley made him this way.

The Wastelands are full of mutants like Zander and his younger sister Kensy. They’re victims of the Cleanse– a deadly gas that leaves its survivors deformed. Cast aside by the humans that live in Westport, they are forced to survive as best they can, half-starved and deprived of even the most basic education.

Yet, each year mutants are invited to compete in the Skid Track League. It’s a roller derby-style race with deadly consequences. Win, and you get your freedom. Lose, and you disappear from the face of the earth. When Zander and Kensy manage to get to Westport and form a team, they’ll discover that not all humans hate them. Maybe with the help of the Rebellion and some sympathizers, they’ll have a chance to get that coveted freedom– for all the mutants.

Skid Kids
I’ve been told this is a temporary cover. I look forward to seeing the real one!!

This is going to be a long review. I hope you’re buckled up for this one!

First of all, I love this genre. I’ve been reading dystopian for about as long as I can remember. I was a reading junkie when YA dystopian hit an all time high. I’ve read almost all the classics– Hunger Games, Uglies, The Giver, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc, etc, etc. It’s no secret that this is MY FAVORITE type of novel.

That being said, this is a wonderful example of dystopia! I would line this us beside Hunger Games with no shame at all. You’ve got all the general tropes– children competing against each other, two out-of-the-ordinary competitors, competitors joining together to beat the Man, unusual alliances, evil grown-ups. It’s all there and very well done.

Franz style is very simplistic but poetic, if that makes sense. His characters often quote their mother’s book, and it’s always done in a way that made me wonder if it was some obscure poet that I didn’t know about, lol. If you’ve read Caged, then you know how much I love poetry. I appreciate the constant tie-in of the abstract motivational quote. It’s just my style.

My one complaint about the style is actually kind of unusual for me. This book is written in third person, present tense. I don’t know if I’m just not used to that combo or what, but it really caught me off guard and took some time to really get into. I write in first person, present, so I didn’t think it’d be that odd. It was, though! I wonder if Franz chose third/present for a reason… It’s probably waaaay too late to consider changing it, but it’s something to think about!

Phew, have we got an ENSEMBLE cast. Lol. That’s one thing I really didn’t enjoy throughout this book: the sheer number of characters that I had to keep track of. I eventually gave up. *facepalm* You’ve got all the mutants in Zander’s circle, and then in Lockstone, and then there’s the mutants competing in the League, the humans, the sympathizers, the Ten Percenters, the soldiers, *deep breath* the… I’m just kidding; I think that’s it. But man, there were a BUNCH. I’ll try to focus on just a few to save your eyes.

Let’s talk about Zander and Kensy. I can kill two birds with one stone! They’re both hardened characters. Zander is more of a realist and a pessimist. He doesn’t give up easily, and he’s loyal to his sister beyond all else. Kensy, on the other hand, is a bit of a dreamer and an optimist. They’re both so strong. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between them while keeping the similarities. I appreciate how brave they both were, especially towards the end. I was annoyed that Zander lied to REDACTED at the end, but that’s also something I would write. Lol. It had me tearing up. And I also really, really liked that REDACTED was the one who tied together all of the mutants and sympathizers. #femaleempowerment LOL (Also, sorry to be so secretive, but those were both big spoilers, and you NEED to read this one!)

As far as the human sympathizers go, you’ve mainly got the focus on Rachel and Raulson. I was a bit confused about how old Rachel was, but I think I figured out she’s like… mid-twenties? Lol. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Another amazing strong female. She overcomes so much and fights an uphill battle. I was rooting for her from day 1. Raulson I kinda worried about. I didn’t know whether to trust him, and I was a bit suspicious at the end. I think he had a strong redemption arc, though! Kudos for that.

Now, the BADDIE– President Crowley. I really want to spit in his steak. I do. I want to grab him by the back of the head and just…. smash him into a table. We all know by now– I love a well-written villain. Crowley doesn’t even fit into the half-bad category. He’s all the way bad. Giving me HUGE President Snow vibes, and I’m here for it!

I’ve kind of already talked about the plot here and there. This is a long book, friends. We’re tapping 400 pages. She could weigh down a starving child, I’m sure. LOL

In my opinion, the plot actually started out kinda slow. I pushed through in the hopes that it would pick up once the main group got to Westport. And man, did it ever pick up! At about the 25% point, when you get past all the exposition, everything falls into place and you’re in. Waiting for the next race, wondering what’s going to happen to Rachel, worrying about Fins and Rance… It’s one punch after another. Absolutely no complaints from me about ANY of the plot.

Well, one complaint. I reached out to the author with a concern about whether or not there was going to be a sequel. The end kind of threw me for a loop. I don’t know that it was necessary to kill REDACTED. It felt like a solid ending before that final chapter. All the ends were tied up except for Rance. The ending almost reads like a forced cliff-hanger.

Overall Thoughts: I really, really enjoyed this book. It was very well-written and unfolded magnificently. I’m giving it a solid 8/10!

You can pre-order Skid Kids here:

And check out the Skid Kids website here: