by: Jaq Hazell
Published by:Nowness Books
Genres:Contemporary, Young Adult, Magical Realism
Format: Mobi (Kindle file)
Source: Publisher (via YA Books Central)
WINNER OF THE RUBERY BOOK AWARD BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017WINNER OF THE CAROUSEL AWARE PRIZE BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK 2017
'There are so many benches lining the riverside, each and every one tragic in its own way.'
Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.
Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.
Unique, haunting, and compelling, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we've gone.
'The heroine's voice is delightful, honest and humorous. British slang adds to the rich setting. Issues of class, financial inequity and racial discrimination are incorporated realistically. Though portraying a character as an inanimate object seems an unlikely premise, Hazell successfully pulls it off, and the artful writing will entice even those typically drawn to more realistic titles' School Library Journal
Seventeen year old Lauren ‘Ren’ Miller has just died. She finds that her spirit lives on inside her own memorial bench. Although the story is called, ‘My Life as a Bench,’ it is really the story of Lauren contemplating her life after her death.
Ren can’t eat or sleep. She can only observe people as they pass by. Every night Ren must mentally relive her life over and over. Her only companion is the old bench next to her. Ren learns that the other bench is named Lionel. Lionel was elderly baker before he died. Lionel has his own life story to tell.
The undercurrent of the story is that Ren has unfinished business that must be resolved before she can be at peace. Ren’s boyfriend is in jail on charges of killing her. She knows that he didn’t do it. She pleads with people who walk by to help her exonerate her boyfriend but no one is able to hear her.
When I first heard about ‘My Life As a Bench’, I was really unsure how the author was going to pull of this premise without the story being super cheesy. Hazell did a remarkable job making this both an entertaining and thought-provoking read.
Ren’s story is told in alternating points of view. The POV alternates between present day and the past events leading up to Ren’s death. This format really made the story move along quickly. Throughout the book we are slowly given clues about what was going on in Ren’s life before she was killed.
I loved the way Hazell introduced characters. Lauren’s family and friends are introduced to the story as they come to visit Ren’s memorial bench. This allows us to conclude, for ourselves, the details of Ren’s relationship with the other characters.
I partially loved the descriptions of the setting around the benches. It is so heart wrenching for Ren to see the beauty surrounding her but not be able to really experience them.
The only issue that I have with the story is that the dialog was very heavy on British teen slang. I often was confused about what the characters where saying. A few of the words are listed and the end of the book. It would have been nice to have them listed in the beginning so they could be referred to. ‘My Life As a Bench’ didn’t tie up all the loose . For me, this was ok because it leaves the reader to decide if Lauren finally found her peace.
‘My Life As a Bench’, is amazingly refreshing. This book offers an entirely unique spin on a young life tragically lost.
I loved this ‘My Life As A Bench’. I’m definitely recommending it. This novel gives us a strong message about how none of us know how long we have left.