The Day I Killed James

September 24, 2008 at 8:07 pm Leave a comment

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a ghost story of the most haunting kind, because the ghost that troubles Theresa is not a wispy image or unshakeable memory. It is guilt. Theresa feels that if only she had been more kind to the older boy who clearly had a crush on her, then he might be alive today. Maybe if she had not ditched him at the barn party, he would not have taken off on his motorcycle and ridden off an ocean cliff. If only…

Theresa runs away from her home, her hopelessly distant father, the therapist she can’t stand and the best friend who can’t possibly understand the burden she carries. She shaves her head and changes her name and won’t let anyone come close emotionally. But even a new life in a new location can’t resolve the feeling that anyone she cares for is endangered, that she is a toxic threat to those she most cares for.

There is, however, one young gir, a survivor of physical and emotional abuse, who stubbornly defies Theresa’s distance and gets close enough to reflect loss in a way that allows Theresa to see the threads of forgiveness and acceptance that are part of the fabric of life.

Written in an interesting series of journal entries that alternate with first person narrative, The Day I Killed James is an interesting look at grief and the emotional self-focus of a teen who learns that the burdens of life are best eased by helping another. (JS)

The Day I Killed James

Before the book begins, you imagine that Theresa was living a fairly average teenage life – but everything changed the day that James died. And Theresa feels that it was all her fault. James had always been in love with her, and she used him, and betrayed him and broke his heart. The book is about Theresa trying to come to terms with her heart wrenching guilt, alternating betwen reflective journal entries and chapters that chronicle her current whereabouts. Theresa drops out of life for a while, and even tries to escape herself completely by shaving her head, moving, changing her name and never looking back. She discovers that you can never really escape being yourself…This is a short book that explores thoroughly, and from many different angles, a single and profound theme: carelessness with someone’s heart. This would be a great book group book as there is a lot to discuss, ponder and explore here.   (Review by Amy Kaplan)


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