Meeting new people you never know what will bond you. Will it be your dislike of something, your fear of something, something you both find funny? Will it be a silent moment or a laugh you share? Or will it be something deeper, something darker? For Owen, Frank, Audrey and Jin-Ae they were connected by one thing and one thing only. They all wanted to die.
Finding each other on-line, Owen and Jin-Ae being the only two that “know” each other because they are from the same town, the four teens decide they are going to take a road trip and visit the places were famous people have killed themselves. Armed with a car, minimal money, the open roads of the US and each other they start making their way across the country to Death Valley where they plan for it to be their final resting stop.
As they navigate the streets of the country and go from place to place, adding new locations on the way to extend the trip, they not only learn more about each other, but they learn more about themselves. Owen the quiet introvert, who had tried to kill himself numerous times, learns how to come out if his shell and deal with the issues that have rocked his family. He opens himself up both physically and emotionally with Audrey and slowly starts to see things differently, to not feel so alone. Audrey, the breath of fresh air, isn’t what she seems. She is the rebel, the girl with spunk and pizzazz that doesn’t take crap from anyone. Terrible things have happened to her in her childhood that have led her on this journey, but there is something so real about her. And then there is Frank, the boy obsessed with sports because his father wanted him to be good at playing them. Be the star athlete he was never destined to be. And finally Jin-Ae, the closeted lesbian afraid to come out to her family and to be who she is. All four of these characters become more than what they are on the surface. They become hope and light instead of death and darkness.
Going into this book I knew it would be a heavy read. The description alone gives that away. How much more depressing can you get besides a suicide club. But as the book progressed and I became more and more attached to these 4 characters. I became invested in whether they lived or died. I wanted them to be happy.
Getting to know Frank, Owen, Audrey and Jin-Ae I realized that these kids were just that, kids. They were so lost in their lives and in their own heads and thoughts that they were desperate to find a way out. They didn’t all come from the most stable of families, leaving them with no one to turn to but each other, strangers on the internet. Through their journey and conversations with one another they found a life they never imagined, they found hope and a life worth living.
This story broke my heart and put it back together. The loneliness all 4 characters felt just jumped off the pages. You could feel the depth of their emotions, but as their journey progressed you could feel the change in their spirits. What started out as a trip to end their lives became a way for them to learn what exactly is worth living for.