Clover Book Club: Things I'm Seeing Without You
Grief, suicide, romance, and internet relationships are tough themes to weave into any novel, but Peter Bognanni does so masterfully in his new YA gem Things I’m Seeing Without You. The story, which follows a teenage girl named Tess struggling after her online boyfriend Jonah commits suicide, is heartfelt and honest—and not the least bit depressing. Sure, it’ll make you cry, but it’ll also make you laugh (we promise!). And more importantly, it’ll leave you feeling optimistic and inspired. Just ask our readers, who read the novel for this month’s book club.
Sarah, 17, New York
Things I’m Seeing Without You tells the story of 17-year-old Tess, who is lost after her online boyfriend Jonah commits suicide. Tess drops out of high school, moves in with her estranged father, and plans to hold a funeral for Jonah. As if this isn’t strange enough, Tess is contacted by Jonah’s best friend, Daniel, and the two embark on their own, finding a new meaning of life after Jonah’s death.
Something that stood out to me about this story was how much Tess was affected by Jonah’s death, even though he was her "online" boyfriend. As teenagers, a big part of our world is online and that’s something adults tend not to take seriously. But for us, it’s real. I’ve made some of my best friends online and known people who have created lasting romantic relationships online. Bognanni really emphasized the importance of this through making Tess and Jonah’s love legitimate.
That wasn’t the only love plotline, though. My friend Isabel, 16, appreciated the budding romance between Tess and Jonah’s best friend. “My favorite part was the relationship between Tess and Daniel that developed. They found love as a result of Jonah’s death. It was tragic, but so, so beautiful.” And no matter who you are or what your background might be, this is a book nearly everyone can relate to. My friend Emily said that Tess reminded her a lot of herself. “She’s sarcastic like me,” she said. In fact, we all agreed that Tess was our favorite character in the novel. She was amazing and her strength was truly inspiring.
And while dealing with sensitive topics like grief and suicide can be tough, we all liked how Bognanni uses it to raise awareness. “Suicide is something that hadn’t been addressed for the longest time, so I’m glad it’s finally coming to the surface and being talked about,” Emily said.
This may be a young adult book, but it’s worth reading for everyone because it addresses such relatable issues. And don’t be intimidated by the length; once you start reading, you won’t put it down. ”It’s pretty thick, but I finished it in a day and a half,” Emily promised.
Dymond, 19, Georgia
I was so emotionally invested in Things I'm Seeing Without You that I read the whole thing, start to finish, in two hours. Tess's journey with grief after finding out her online companion Jonah had committed suicide was heartbreaking on multiple levels. However, it's how she chooses to cope that is so interesting. As a young person, thinking about death and your existence in the world can be really scary, and it was awesome to see it all plainly written out in such a relatable way. My friend Brittany said that a lot of YA books, especially about loss, have to get it just right and that the author really nailed this book.
And if you're worried about the side characters falling to the wayside, that's not the case here. My friend Karlee loved how nuanced Tess's relationship with her dad was, and how it felt like any other father/daughter relationship. In fact, Karlee said that Bognanni showed the relationship in such a realistic and emotional way that it was "Shonda Rhimes-worthy.” Talk about a compliment—and I agree wholeheartedly! I love a good plot twist, and without spoiling anything, this one definitely changed directions and left me totally surprised at the end. Bottom line: I would highly recommend Things I’m Seeing Without You.
This post was brought to you by our pals at Penguin Teen. Now that you’re fully convinced that you need to add Things I’m Seeing Without You to your shelf, order it online here.