Genre: Young Adult
Livia Stone’s life will never be the same again, not since her twin brother, Jasper, was tragically killed while on a college visit. It seems that everyone is trying to help—her mother, best friend, teacher-mentor, and even her dead grandmother—but no one understands the nightmare Livia is living. She can’t seem to stop wearing her brother’s shirts, having relations with his best friend, or taking the little white pills prescribed by her psychologist. When the pills run out, Livia turns to her absentee father’s old alcohol stash. Livia is fully aware of her bad decisions, but feels powerless to stop making them as the grief consumes her. Her spiral escalates when she returns to school and her struggles are laid bare for all to see, including Daniel, a new British student who knows something about loss and pain, and some days helps her cope with her own. Livia comes to see that Jasper lived his truth, but the question is, can she find a way to live hers and go on without him?
Standing Sideways by J. Lynn Bailey is a deeply-felt, heart-wrenching story that drew me in from the very first page. Ms. Bailey’s writing is superb; Livia’s grief is palpably felt throughout the novel. Standing Sideways is well paced and addictive with its emotional pull and perfectly delivered plot twists and revelations of who Jasper was, how he died, and finally how he lived. There were times I had to sigh at Livia, cry with her, and was disappointed in her, but I always rooted for her. Although fiction, the story was based on a real tragedy suffered by the author’s family. This sad truth is unbelievably and bravely shared in Standing Sideways. Reading the book deeply affected me and it’s one I’m not likely to forget. A penetrating and beautiful story about grief, love, and standing in the end—even if it’s “standing sideways.”