Two teens meet after tragedy and learn about love, loss, and letting go Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero―a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her. Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It's causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed―just not in the way he, or she, expects. Candace Ganger's Six Goodbyes We Never Said is no love story. If you ask Naima, it’s not even a like story. But it is a story about love and fear and how sometimes you need a little help to be brave enough to say goodbye.
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Dew is also dealing with his own problems, including anxiety/PTSD. His parents died when he was younger and he has been recently adopted by a couple that is making a new family/home for him and his adopted sister, Faith. He wields his recorder for protection and often gives wisdom far beyond his years. He is still coping with the death of his parents and trying to forge his own way forward.
What I loved: This book tackles some heavy issues in a really great way. I loved that we could actually see some of the therapy sessions for Dew to see how he is working through things. We also hear about therapy/meds for Naima. This book is great at presenting mental illness in a really authentic and constructive way.
The characters generally felt quite heartfelt, and it was easy to connect to them, even when they were not always the best of themselves. They felt very three-dimensional. Their grief, struggles, and healing was all really well done. Also, not to give anything away, but this is not a romance, and I really appreciated that. The book is deeper and goes into bigger issues with aplomb.
What left me wanting more: The way that Dew obsesses about Naima was a bit troubling to me, as it seemed almost stalker level. I found it a bit weird that most of the adults (except his mother) were encouraging this, especially when Naima was pushing him so hard to go away/not interested. I would have liked a more organic meeting/friendship. This felt a bit disturbing to me, and made it a little harder for me to get into the story. It does, however, get better later, but it did not set a great tone for me.
While the topics were strong, the plot meandered in places, and it seemed to get off-topic every so often that made it harder to keep going through. It was a book that was easy to stop reading without a clear driver (not quite a page-turner for me). This is personal opinion, but it just meandered a bit too much for me to be completely engrossed.
Final verdict: I would recommend this book for the way it handles mental illness and therapy as well as grief beautifully. For readers who may be struggling with similar issues, this book has a lot of power.