Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Way He Lived-- Emily Wing Smith

Doesn't it always seem like people become flawless after they're dead? Especially youth... it's like there's a post-mortem photoshop application for memories... all the dog-kicking, spitball shooting, back-talking, etc gets washed away.

In The Way He Lived we learn about Joel, a boy in his teens who died tragically on a hiking accident. Told in six sections, each with its own narrator who is either related to or a good friend of Joel, this book tells the story of Joel's life through his affect on other people. Each narrator has a unique voice and focuses on a different aspect of Joel. We never really learn exactly who he is, but the picture the reader gains by viewing his life through the eyes of others is a fuzzy-perfect-beautiful image... almost like it's been photoshopped to perfection.

I found myself quite disappointed when each narrator's section ended... but only because I wanted more of each narration! It's usually a good thing when the author leaves you wanting more, and in this case, it really helped the pace of what would have otherwise been a slowish read. It's a very real book, and quite powerful. Religion, specifically Mormonism, is an important element of the book, but not overpoweringly so. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book and I think both boys and girls (especially girls) would too. I recommend this book for teens who like the "dying books", multiple narrators, stories of friendship, and stories of loss.

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