The Shadows We Know By Heart is my favorite 2017 book so far!

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This is another debut novel from a new author I could not put down.  Jennifer Park tells the story of a family in turmoil after a child is killed ten years ago.  The parents are still barely holding on while Lean and her surviving brother, Matt try to live their lives in high school.  Sam was killed 10 years ago.  At the beginning of the story we don’t know how or why.  All we know is that Leah is not allowed in the forest behind her house.  But the forest is where she feels most at home, where she can be her real self and deal with the loss of her brother.  She has a secret.  She knows that Sasquatch are real.  She’s been watching them for years.  Then one day she sees a human boy is with them.  This boy has intense green eyes and they are drawn to each other.  She starts sneaking out away from her extremely protective father who is the local preacher.  We don’t realize right away but her best friend, Ashley’s family also suffered loss in the same incident.  Park’s storytelling is a slow reveal that kept me staying up late to finish reading.  I just couldn’t put it down.  It is a story of grief, romance, family and the wildness of things we don’t understand.  One of my favorite moments is when Leah connects with the Sasquatch child.  A six foot tall child she nicknames Bee.  The reason she and the boy share a connection is both beautiful and devastating at times.  Park writes beautifully and descriptively.  I felt like I was in the forest myself with my fingers digging into the dirt.  So far, this is my favorite book of 2017.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss the legends of Bigfoot.  What would you do if you were Leah?

Discuss when Leah thinks, “We’re a breath apart, and instead of closing my eyes like any sane girl would do, I’m trying to rationalize this, because this is the boy I’ve wanted, who now wants me, and for some reason, it’s not enough to make me surrender.”

Discuss when Leah thinks, “My claim I think I have on this boy is so strong that I can’t dispel the jealousy that wraps around me like a second skin.  Sharing him is not something I’m sure I’m willing to do anymore.  And he’s not even mine.”

Discuss how the male Bigfoot and Leah’s dad are similar.

Discuss how Leah feels more at home in the forest.  Is there a place that feels that way to you?

Discuss how Leah’s feelings for Ben and the boy in the forest are different.

What would you do if you came face to face with a Sasquatch?

What do you think will happen to the boy in the future?

Discuss Matt’s revelation to the parents and Leah about Sam.