January 9, 2012

BSC #93, Mary Anne and the Memory Garden: Grab Some Kleenex

Posted in books tagged , , , at 8:31 pm by Jenn

Yeah, I can't snark on this

Summary: Mary Anne is doing a group project on Shakespeare, and she and the other group members are really excited. They also get along really well, so they have fun working together. Mary Anne’s friends with one of the other girls, Amelia, and is happy to get to know her better. But the day after the group gets together to work, everyone learns that Amelia’s family was in a car accident and she didn’t survive.

SMS is hit hard by the tragedy, with Kristy taking it especially badly. Mary Anne’s surprised and a little scared that the tough girl is so broken; Kristy didn’t even know Amelia that well. She’s mostly mad that the driver who killed Amelia was drunk and this wasn’t his first driving offense. Kristy gets the idea to start a chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving at SMS, and suddenly she bounces back, now that she has a way to give Amelia’s death some meaning.

Mary Anne, on the other hand, sinks into depression and anxiety. It’s especially bad the day of Amelia’s funeral, when she worries about how to act. She goes to see a grief counselor who’s been brought to the school and learns that her feelings are normal and she should let herself grieve. The students at SMS keep coming up with ways to honor Amelia’s memory, but Mary Anne wants to do more. After learning of the garden Dawn is helping to plant in a vacant lot in California, Mary Anne comes up with the idea to create a memory garden for Amelia. She finally feels like she’s making sure no one will ever forget her.

Thoughts: This book always hit home for me. When I was in the fifth grade, two girls I knew (one a year older than me, the other a couple years younger) were killed in a car accident, along with their father. I’d spent an evening with them just a few weeks earlier and had felt like I was getting to be friends with them. The next year, another girl I’d spent some time with recently was killed in a bus crash. Even though I didn’t know any of the girls all that well, they were semi-friends. So I could always relate to how Mary Anne felt in this book.

Specifically, I could relate to Mary Anne in the scene where the SMS students hear that a 13-year-old girl has died but they don’t know who it is. Mary Anne realizes that she hasn’t seen Kristy in school that day and she starts worrying that she’s the one who died. My senior year of high school, one of my classmates died suddenly; I hadn’t known him well, but he was a really nice guy and everyone was shocked and saddened by his death. A good friend of mine was out sick that day, and when the seniors were called to the auditorium to hear the news and the principal announced that one of our classmates had died, I was sure it was her. The horror of those few moments before hearing the real news made me feel sick.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like the series handles death well for the age group it’s targeted towards. The same applies here. And the events of the day when everyone finds out about Amelia’s death are realistic – and eerily similar to what happened when my high school classmate died. Classes were canceled, students were allowed to go home if they felt they needed to, grief counselors were brought in, and we spent most of the day talking and comforting each other.

Mary Anne and her group’s project actually sounds pretty cool. They’re supposed to do something about the world Shakespeare lived in, so they decide to publish a newspaper with theater reviews, world news, and even a classified section. They call their project William Tells All.

Speaking of school projects, Claudia gets to make a Rube Goldberg decive for a class. I want to go to SMS.

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