This Is Sarah on Goodreads

When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin's world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that changes everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so how can he bring her back?

As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going even if it kills her.

THIS IS SARAH serves as a meditation on loss, love and what it means to say goodbye.

(ARC graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Sarah was:
- blonde
- a klutz
- a really great singer
- honest
- goofy

Sarah is:
- dead

Ally Malienko brings us the story of Sarah, a seventeen year-old girl who gets into a car on her way to a party, never to be heard from again. Or, more specifically, Ally Malienko brings us the story of those who Sarah leaves behind. Rather than conceptualize the story as a whodunnit murder/mystery scenario, the author brings us the very best of YA contemporary: an abundance of character exploration in the face of change.

Told in dual point of view, This is Sarah tackles the loss of a girlfriend and a loss of a sister, respectively. It challenges our identities and the roles we've come to associate with ourselves. As the boyfriend sits in therapy and makes lists about who Sarah was and what she meant to him, so is the reader slowly lead to a realization of the roles we take on in our lives and the way they depend on one another. Most of us are:
- sons or daughters
- siblings
- parents
- friends
- partners

This Is Sarah brings forth the most fundamental question: who am I when I am no longer a sibling? Who am I when I am no longer a partner? And can I fulfill the rest of my roles with as much zest as I did before now that I have lost one of the most defining ones?

In a display of truly capable storytelling, Ally Malienko takes the reader on a journey through all the stages of grief, told in a non-chronological order, and often overlapping (as in real life they would). Through anger, through bargaining, through many shades of depression, and then back through denial, the reader alternately grieves and hopes, just as the characters grieve and hope. And acceptance?

Anyone who has had a loved one missing will know that eventually it is the act of not knowing, a lack of closure and assurance, that cuts the deepest and that staves off any hope of acceptance and moving on. It is a persisting glimmer of possibility that somewhere out there, our loved one is alive. Perhaps Sarah will be the next Elizabeth Smart. Perhaps Sarah will be the next Jaycee Lee Duggard. Perhaps Sarah can be found and brought home alive. Perhaps hers was the extenuating circumstance all families of the missing are praying for.

Acceptance, therefore, is just a little bit harder to come by.

And when out of the blue Sarah's voicemail becomes active after a year of silence, a whole different kind of hope emerges, and acceptance becomes not so much a final stage of grief as a tantalizing possibility. What if Sarah isn't gone at all?

As far as emotional, suspenseful, YA contemporaries go, this is one to add to the list.

This Is Sarah is:
- compelling
- emotional
- insightful
- suspenseful
- engaging
- sad
- realistic
- in the end, all about acceptance.

As for who we are when we lose a role in life? Perhaps the answer is in the search itself.


- Lexie