The Day I Killed James – Catherine Ryan Hyde

People die of love.

Eighteen-year-old Theresa believes this to be true, or at least she claims she does in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s YA novel, The Day I Killed James. We meet her at the beginning of her therapy sessions with Dr. Grey. She doesn’t like him very much.

I’ve thought about dumping him and getting  somebody else, but that would be the easy way out, which I’m not entirely sure I deserve.

So why is Theresa in therapy? Well, James, the buff boy next door – who has been trying to get her attention forever – ends up dead after she takes him to an end-of-year party in an effort to make her boyfriend, Randy, jealous. It isn’t until weeks after his death that Theresa can admit to perhaps liking him…just a little bit.

If I had felt it any more strongly, I might have cracked like a china cup. It was like a pressure inside me, like an old steam boiler, and I just lay there hoping it would hold. Hoping I would hold.

Theresa isn’t a horrible person and taking James to the party to make Randy jealous isn’t the worst thing she could have done, but the aftermath of that event sends Theresa off on a journey of self discovery that is actually long overdue.  Theresa has some things to work out and while James might be the catalyst, some of her problems pre-date him.

I didn’t like the beginning of The Day I Killed James very much. The story is told mostly as a series of journal entries prescribed by Dr. Grey. Things improve a little bit in the novel’s second part. Theresa is now Annie and she’s left home not so much to sort out her life, but to escape it. She soon discovers that it’s almost impossible to avoid all human contact. Her sudden ‘relationship’ with a precocious eleven-year-old girl named Cathy ups the ante a little – but also seems slightly forced.

However, when all is said and done, I think teens will quite like the story of what it means to love and how important it is to take care of each others’  heart.