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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Review: He Forgot to Say Goodbye

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release date: US March 2010
Genre: Realism, Bildungsroman
Target audience: 12+, YA
US Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1416994343


He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a contemporary novel about friendship, relationships and self-discovery.

Ramiro Lopez lives in El Paso, Texas. He goes to a pre-med magnet high school. But it’s not the sort of school where nice white rich kids go. They go to the school next door. Jake Upthegrove is one of the nice rich kids but he’s anything but happy.

I read this book because I really enjoyed another book by the author - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. They share many similar themes – young men finding their place in the world and deciding the type of men they would like to become. Ramiro thinks of himself as uncool and in social terms pretty much a loser. He has one great friend who he grew up with: Alejandra. She’s outspoken, she has opinions about everything, especially Ram. She thinks he’s cute and has been on at him to date her for ages. But Ram doesn’t see her that way. He sees her as a good person and a maybe a little bit overindulged by her father.

Jake is lost. He has no real friends. He pushes people away and though he has a sort of superiority complex around the students at school. He thinks they’re all unreal. I guess he thinks that they don’t think for themselves. But he admires Ram. To Jake Ram is the most real person he’s ever met. To Ram Jake is so sure of himself.

Most of the novel focuses on the events leading up to their friendship and the difficulties each faces in their life. They are connected by their absent fathers. Ram idolises his father, though he knows very little about him. Jake did idealise his father until they spoke and now he’s just left with a hatred of his surname and the challenge of living with his mother and his stepfather. On the outside Jake’s spoilt lifestyle may seem perfect but inside Jake is angry. The reasons why slowly unfold.

I love that the author doesn’t take the easy way out in his writing. He writes about difficult things. About how our parents aren’t perfect and the fact that we have to accept that and find a way to be better. About the consequences of substance abuse. About prejudice. About love.

He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a realistic portrayal of teenage experience – that which is not easy but which has the potential to be wonderful. A book worth reading.

Recommended for fans of:
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Catch by Will Leitch

Source: Bought and read on my Kobo


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