About the Book
Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it's the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.
As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.
Praise for Speak of Me As I Am:
"Debut author Belasco adeptly captures the tribulations of high school life while also celebrating art's ability to help clarify and contextualize its joys and sorrows. . . . The novel's most intriguing character . . . is grief itself, which the author illuminates, examines, and dissects with a surgeon's precision and the gentle touch of an artist. A stirring account of the trials of adolescence." —Kirkus Reviews
"This book will undoubtedly be compared to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. . . . Teens seeking a quieter but no less moving story will find this book a perfect read." —Booklist
"Never maudlin, always authentic, the portrayal of their struggles to deal with grief and with love will resonate with many teens." —VOYA
"A good purchase for realistic fiction collections and for readers looking for books about survivor’s guilt and healing." —School Library Journal
"Belasco’s novel sends a powerful message about the complicated nature of grief. . . . This powerful, emotional work should be earmarked to be a favorite with teen readers." —BookPage
About the Author
SONIA BELASCO has spent much of her professional life working with teenagers as a mentor, tutor and therapist, and she is often inspired by their passion, creativity and strength. She will watch almost any TV show about high school and has seen every contemporary movie that involves dance battles or superheroes. She is a native of Washington, D.C. and currently lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she is trying to acquire a taste for cheesesteak.
SPEAK OF ME AS I AM, her first novel, is due out by Philomel Books/Penguin Random House in 2017.
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J. Hooligan's Review
It's truly hard to put into words how I felt while reading this book. It's a story of struggling through grief, and at times it really tugged on my heart - strong. More than once I had to stop listening to it for a bit because I had tears streaming down my eyes and I needed to compose myself. (Especially if I was at work)
Out of all the characters, Damon really stuck out to me the most in this story. I liked Melanie a lot, and Tristan was pretty cool too, but there was just something about Damon I felt I could relate to with more. Maybe because we both love the theater, or it's possible that I felt his story was more tragic because of his unexpected loss of a loved one. Whatever the case, I felt more drawn to his story. I found myself almost disappointed when the focus would shift away from him.
This is a story that has stuck with me, especially the feelings that it gave me. Even just thinking about it and I feel a strong pull in my chest. And then the thoughts that ran through my mind both during and after reading it... this is a topic that I never experienced for myself. I've lost loved ones, but nobody ever as close as a best friend or even a parent. And I truly feel that I was able to grasp a sense of the pain both Melanie and Damon went through as they tried to heal. And any book that gives me strong feelings pleases me.
My biggest issues is, although the characters are teenagers and this book is considered Young Adult, I don't exactly agree it fits in that genre. Maybe it's because of the loss both of the main characters go through, but both of them seem much older in how they think and in their behavior. That, or maybe because this one just reads more maturely than other YA books I've read that deal with loss. Reading this was like absorbing a painting, and I just can't envision the average teenager enjoying it as much as an adult would.
I think this is a great resource for a teenager that went through the tragic loss of a loved one. I also feel this story is a great way for anyone who doesn't entirely understand such loss to be given a glimpse into such sorrow.