I Heart You, You Haunt Me
by Lisa Schroeder
When Ava loses her boyfriend Jackson in a horrible accident, she feels like her world is going to end. She blames herself for his death, she shuts herself off from her friends and her life, and spends her time wishing she had Jackson back. And then, suddenly she does. Whenever she's alone, Jackson comes to her. He haunts her, speaking to her in her mind, touching her with cold ghostly caresses. Ava is so happy to have him back, but she knows it can't last; she has to make a decision: remain alone, with Jackson, or face the world again.
Lisa Schroeder writes in verse, so when I got my hands on this, I was kind of excited for that aspect. When done well (see Sharon Creech's Love That Dog or Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust) it can be very effective. The verse aspect builds an interesting story, layers some magic into the words. Unfortunately for this story, that wasn't the case. Rather than being an asset to the story, Schroeder's verse was distracting and forced. Though there were a few instances of the verse being what it should have been (a unique way of showcasing what Ava was feeling), most of the time it read like diary entries that were arranged funny. This is laziness and/or overconfidence, in my opinion. You can't just chop up lines or arrange them funny and call it verse. There has to be a real attention to language and words, to the way things sound and flow together. They should be read aloud and tweaked minutely again and again until they are precisely what they should be. Poetry should add something overall, its own unnameable something. It isn't just there because the form is non-traditional, you have to create it. I didn't feel Schroeder did an adequate job of creating it. Also, the titles for each "poem" just added to the feeling of it feeling really forced, and broke up the flow a bit for me.
Also, I found Ava to be a little crazy. I mean, I know she is really young, and as such won't always handle things the way she should, but when she starts to feel held back by Jackson's presence, when she is ready to move on with her life, she comes off really whiny and immature. I did like Jackson's role in this, and that she mistook his reason for haunting her, and I liked the healing process aspect, and even the mystery that Ava dances around in her poetic diary entries. But in the end, those things weren't enough for me, and I picked this book up twice and put it back down again before I got through it -- and it's something easily read in an hour or so. With a little more attention to the "poetic" aspect, or if that was discarded and it was treated as a diary instead, it could have worked a bit, and I would have liked it more, but as it was, I don't think I'll be reading more from Schroeder for awhile. But if you're interested in it still, grab it from the library -- it's not like it will take up a ton of your time, after all.
On the book's site you can browse inside and get a feel for the style yourself.
There's a pretty cool interview with fellow author Cynthia Leitich Smith on Smith's site. Lisa talks about the inspiration behind I ♥ You (it was a dream. Oops, spoiler)
Hear Lisa reading from the book, or watch the trailer:
(fair warning, in the beginning of the clip where Lisa reads, she squeals "Hey, Peeps!" in the beginning. It hurts)