Reviewed by Jasmine Sov, age 17

The Tragedy of Dane Riley by Kat Spears

Ever since Dane Riley’s dad died, Dane hasn’t been able to feel okay with himself. He’s flunking his classes, being a jerk (sometimes) to the girl he likes so she doesn’t set her expectations too high, and he doesn’t think he really cares about life at all. To make things worse, his mom seems to have moved on altogether, while her new boyfriend and the boyfriend’s terrible son have moved into their house. Throughout the novel, Dane deals with his grief, learns a few things about coyotes and oysters, and gathers the courage he needs to make his life worth living.

The Tragedy of Dane Riley explores grief after the death of a parent in a very raw, often uncomfortable way. But this uncomfortable feeling is essential to the story—in real life, grief is rarely ever uncomplicated. Dane’s caught in a dark, angry headspace that causes him to lash out at those around him, throw his personal belongings and struggle with finding a reason to keep on living. Ultimately, he finds that it’s okay to not be sure about your future and just take things one step at a time. I liked the use of character interactions to advance Dane’s personal development, as well as the exploration of other characters’ feelings and reactions after Dane’s dad died. Though some of the conversations between Dane, his mother and their therapist were painful to read, I felt that the author was successful in depicting two members of a family struggling, but trying nonetheless to communicate their feelings.

3 stars of 5 stars

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320 pages