Pros: normal teen life can lead to tragedy as well, great conversation starter
Cons: not a paranormal being to be found. Wait. Is this still the Pro section? No?
I was very, VERY hesitant to let my middle schooler read Elizabeth Scott's Love You Hate You Miss You. After all, right from the beginning of the novel, you know there really isn't much of a way the book can have a happy ending: Amy is writing letters to her dead best friend Julia. Still, in the end, I thought the book had lessons it might be more easy to impress upon a middle schooler than a high schooler in the thick of things later, so I let her read it and we discussed. Judge as you will.
::: The Plot :::
The book opens with Amy writing to her dead friend Julia in a journal her (Amy's) therapist wants her to write in. Julia is dead, and Amy -- along with a few other people -- blames herself for Julia's death. Through the course of the book, Amy's letters to Julia are interspersed with the novel itself, taking us back and forth between Amy's current life as an outcast -- the girl with the dead best friend -- and her life before, which she feels, at least in the beginning, was so much better than her current situation.
As she continues writing her letters and meeting with her therapist, even uncooperatively, Amy begins to relive some of the past moments and see them in a different light, realizing that sometimes things aren't as perfect as they seem, and it's not a bad thing to remember someone you loved as both your friend but also an imperfect person.
::: Lessons Learned :::
Jacket copy is often misleading, and the jacket copy for Love You Hate You Miss You is some of the worst at this (sorry, Harper Teen, but it really is). A casual browser would assume that Amy was driving a car drunk and crashed it, or some other equally cliched teen horror, but the reality of the situation is so much more complex and layered, and so much more universal to the average teen experience. Nothing either Amy nor Julia does is out of the ordinary; their story could be that of virtually any teens in America -- or probably anywhere -- which is why what happens to both of them is so insidious.
There are a lot of conversation starters in Love You Hate You Miss You for teens, and it's a much better way to have those sorts of conversation about "What would you do if your friend...?" and "If you found yourself in this situation what would you do?" and "What would you do if you found out your best friend's boyfriend was cheating on her?" than living it out in real life. This book led to some really good conversations with my daughter, and I hope at least one of them stuck.
Love You Hate You Miss You is one of those sleeper books: far more devastating in its normalcy than if it had sparkly vampires or a dystopian future as a backdrop or teens falling in love. If you have a teen who'll talk about books but not about life, this may be a perfect set-up. And at least it won't have a movie with a c-section with teeth at the end of it.