Book Review: “Things I’m Seeing Without You” by Peter Bognanni

October 2, 2017

Tess Fowler wasn’t exactly sure what she was doing when she dropped out of high school; it wasn’t like she had anywhere to go. She knew only that the person she felt closest to in the world, Jonah, had killed himself. It’s didn’t help that technically she barely knew him at all – they mostly communicated via text message and email.

Things I’m Seeing Without You manages to strike a good balance between responsible writing about depression and suicide and unexpected plot twists that make this book stand out from other similarly-themed YA novels on the market today. The comparison the jacket copy makes is to Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, but honestly I liked this book better than that one; Things I’m Seeing Without You felt more sincere to me.

Bognanni also imbues his story with a bit of quirk I found especially appealing. After dropping out, Tess goes to live with her father, an entrepreneur whose big ideas usually turn out to be big flops. His most recent scheme is a funeral planning business, which leads Tess on some pretty unusual escapades (including helping to plan a horse funeral and organizing a burlesque funeral). Perhaps most importantly, he makes Jonah live on in a book about his death. He’s not idolized, but he is mourned, both by the characters and the reader.

I won’t reveal the twist, but I appreciated how it opened exploration of more than individual mourning. Tess wasn’t the only one affected by Jonah’s death, and Things I’m Seeing Without You doesn’t cringe away from exploring the web of grief that spins out after a young person’s suicide. I found this book heartbreaking, humorous, and utterly memorable – it’s hard to believe it’s just over 300 pages long.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.