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Summary: How to Live Without You
In How to Live Without You, Emmy is looking for her big sister, who went missing weeks ago. The two girls were separated after their parents got divorced years ago. Although they’ve kept in touch since Emmy moved in with their mother and Rose stayed with their dad, Emmy starts to realize that there’s a lot she doesn’t know about her sister. First, she learns that Rose wasn’t friends with Levi (their childhood friend and neighbor anymore). Then she discovers that Rose had a boyfriend she never knew about, and she starts to find clues Rose left for her around the city. But will she find Rose, or has something more sinister happened?
Like all of Sarah Everett’s books, this was an emotional rollercoaster of a story with a strong mystery element as readers peel back Rose’s layers with Emmy while trying to figure out what happened to her. Emmy is an impressionable younger sister, literally living her life according to Rose’s rules. That starts to change when she sees that her sister is not the perfect person she had placed on a pedestal. We also get a look into their history as kids, their parents’ divorce, and their friendship with Levi.
Another element of the story is Emmy’s decision about what to do career-wise. Her family expects her to become a doctor and be in the medical field like her father who’s a nurse. But she’s nurturing a different idea — of being a medical illustrator (which I thought was SO COOL). But she has to get past Rose’s previously expressed derision and her parents’ view that being an artist = starving.
Emmy and Levi’s romance is a sweet friends-to-enemies-to-lovers plot and I was rooting for them toward the end, even though I wasn’t a fan in the beginning. There’s not much else to say without ruining the storyline, but I definitely have to include content warnings for depression, suicidal ideation, suicide, and underage drinking.
Overall: How to Live Without You
How to Live Without You is a brilliantly plotted, fast-paced story about sisterhood, mental illness, and coming of age and out of a sibling’s shadow. It’s similar in some ways to Loutzenhiser’s If You’re Out There (which I also loved), but with a sister twist. The message about mental health is loud and clear: People often aren’t what they seem; you can be the life of the party and still be terribly depressed. I’d hand this one to older teens (16+) and adults!