Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Teen Spirit: "My Life As a Bench" by Jaq Hazell



The spirit of 17 year old Ren, or Lauren Bethany Miller, has taken up residence within the tribute memorial bench placed by her grieving family in a London park. There is a plaque attached to the bench with a scan code so when people point their smart phones at it... it opens a website with pictures, remembrances and videos of Ren singing, because, when she was alive, she was an amazing singer, in the style of her favorite, Amy Winehouse.
The next bench over is inhabited by the spirit of Lionel, an older gentleman, who tells her he had died of "boredom". He has been a part of this small patch of land for a long time and he is a comforting presence for Ren, and helps her to come to terms with her situation and what her spirit can and cannot do.
What Ren longs for most of all is a visit from, or even a glimpse of, her former boyfriend, Gabe. She wonders why he hasn't come to visit the bench. Then, she hears some startling information when some members of her family come to visit, that Gabe was charged with her death. As things from her past slowly come back to her she longs to reach out and make things right.
The author, beginning with this unusual premise, turns it into a moving story of a young life ending all too soon. The story cuts between Ren and Lionel's dialogues and Ren's remembrances of her past and the events leading up to her death. It is engaging, funny and also quite heartbreaking. Thank you to NetGalley and Nowness Books who granted my DRC wish! Highly recommended!