Letter from the past
Amelia is tired of being "the girl with the dead sister", since it's been three years since her sister was involved in an accident on the lake. When she starts 8th grade, her teacher gives the students letters they wrote to themselves at the start of 6th grade-- and Amelia gets Clara's. She decides to try to accomplish the things Clara has told herself she would do (like asking a boy named Billy to a dance and trying out for the softball team) as a way to break herself out of her endless cycle of grief. Her best friend Taylor agrees that this is a good plan, and tries to help by making Amelia run with her. Amelia does manage to do some things on her own, like getting into a high school physics class, and her family is managing to move in a forward pattern as well. Her mother is a part-time city planner, and her father has decided to devote himself to his food truck, Pits and Pieces, coming up with new barbecue recipes and items like bacon chocolate chip cookies. He even enters a competition and tricks Amelia and her mother into going down to the lake to meet with the producers. Amelia starts spending time with Clara's friend, Twitch, who is both somewhat comforting and upsetting to be around. Taylor's grandmother, who runs a very cool General Store/soda fountain, also tries to help Amelia process her grief by sharing some of her own life experiences. Amelia manages to make it through some of the items in the letter, and is able to get through more and more of her days without crying.
The small, lakeside town is an intriguing setting, and is portrayed as having lots of traditions celebrated by its residents. Kite Night is a fun local festival, and the 8th graders seem to be very invested in the idea of Prank Day, even though it's hard to believe that that is still something allowed, much less encouraged. I imagine that it is hard for Amelia to avoid the lake entirely; luckily, she can spend most of her time in the General Store, which is right up there on my list of fictional places to visit.
Readers who are intrigued by how young people navigate their way through grief and who have enjoyed books like Geithner's If Only, Dessen's The Truth About Forever, Lopez's Confetti Girl or Silberberg's Milo : Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze will find Amelia's journey a interesting look at the unexpected places life can take us.