Content warning: suicide, grief.
Disclaimer: This book was a gift from NetGalley. If you’re worried this has coloured my view or I’ll give a lovely review to an awful book, make sure to read the review first. If that doesn’t convince you, my review of another book they sent me, Life is Like a Parade, should.
It was just a normal Tuesday for Kai, until it wasn’t. A letter from her sister Jen arrives to break the news that she has died by suicide. With her parents acting like normal and her friends just not understanding, Kai struggles through her grief. She begins to self-medicate, pushing those closest away. Now in need of an outsiders help, Kai’s parents send her to a grief camp for kids and teens. Here, Kai is surrounded by those working through a similar pain.
Just a Normal Tuesday is a fascinating piece of writing when it comes to the first act. Palpable panic rises in your throat as Kai rushes to her sisters home. You’ll shed a tear or two for the loss of this girl you never knew. Jen could be anyone’s big sister. She was funny, clever, adventurous. Her death truly feels like a preventable, massive loss as Kai’s emotions become our own. Her inability to accept her sisters choice becomes overwhelming, for this was not the Jen she knew.
Kai’s need for answers as to why tragedies take place is a common train of thought for myself. Although I’ve never dealt with a huge death in my life, there were times I found myself nodding in agreement. This is a devastating but relatable tale.
Unfortunately, it begins to go a little downhill from here. Once Kai arrives at grief camp the entire narrative loses traction and there’s definitely less tugging at the heartstrings. She meets four teens and camp counsellor Marco, and together the group learn to process their emotions and work their way through their own grievances.
When I began reading, I’d forgotten there was a mention of young love in the blurb. As Kai develops a crush on a fellow camper, she questions if this is a suitable place for romance to blossom. There’s definitely an icky feel to it. Understandably Kai should be allowed to feel happy and continue on with her life, but both teens are in extremely vulnerable positions. They’re young, grief-stricken, trying to come to terms with the loss of close family members. While a romantic relationship may provide extra comfort, for me it was an unforeseen development.
The issue of how to move forward without guilt is necessary to tackle, particularly in a book about the aftermath of a suicide. For anyone dealing with death, a worry often forms that finding happiness ‘too soon’ afterwards may be wrong or disrespectful. While it’s great to see this myth flipped on its head, using romance as a tool to help Kai move forward is an easy cop out. It would have been nice and definitely different to see Kai find strength in the friendships she formed as camp while helping others. Turrisi’s choice to help heal Kai’s pain through the love found in a relationship felt like the easier route to follow, where as her friendship with any of the campers could have been a more interesting path.
Just a Normal Tuesday is a good read overall with a respectful handling of suicide. With a gripping start but an ending that you won’t be too bothered about, the entire narrative loses traction once grief camp begins. This is a three star novel at best. It deserves to go right to the middle of your TBR.
Interested? You can get Just a Normal Tuesday right here.