Get this, I’m supposed to be starting a journal about “my journey.” Please. I can see it now: Dear Diary, as I’m set adrift on this crazy sea called “life”…
Love You Hate You Miss You, by Elizabeth Scott, deals with the complex emotions of sixteen year-old Amy, who was involved in a car accident that killed her best friend Julia. The two have been inseparable since Julia’s arrival five years ago; their friendship anchoring Amy against her absent parents, and the Regina George-like Beth. Without Julia, Amy is left flailing alone in a void of confusion, grief, anger, and guilt. Through a series of letters to her dead friend, she struggles to imagine a life for herself, alone.
When the book opens, Amy is in rehab for binge-drinking, but also to help cope with her loss. Julia was everything Amy wished she was – prettier, braver, and better dressed. But she never let Amy feel inferior. Instead she protected her and brought her into the wild speed of Julia-world; full of alcohol, drugs, parties, and boys. But now all Amy can see is everything she used to do with Julia, and even though her parents and her shrink try to help her, it just reminds her why they’re doing it. But the more time she spends writing to Julia, the more complex their relationship becomes, and the more difficult questions she has to ask herself.
Amy battles herself as much as she battles Julia’s absence. She feels guilty for her part in the car crash, for forcing Julia to see her cheating boyfriend, for her anger, for her doubts, for her hatred. She does hate Julia sometimes – for realizations and truths that come out after her death – but that only makes her hate herself more. At the beginning of the book, Amy refuses to commit suicide because she believes she deserves to live a life of pain without Julia. Living is her punishment.
But despite the efforts of her inept parents and her annoying shrink, Amy’s path to healing comes from her own strength. Even as she feels guilty for rare moments of happiness, she doesn’t stop looking for them. She literally pulls her own self out of her depression, and that’s the spine of this book. Because no one can truly understand her relationship with Julia and what its loss means to her, there is literally no one else to help. The only person who understands how she truly feels is the quiet Patrick, but he tends to be as elusive as Amy’s own moments of clarity. But as the letters dated only by the number of days since Julia’s death begin to be interspersed with letters dated normally, we watch Amy battle her own demons – even the one with Julia’s face.
As the title hints, there are a lot of complex topics floating around in the book, and though Scott occasionally indulges in the cliché, she also offers a clear glass into real life: for example when Amy has an unexpected bonding moment with fellow classmate Caro, she remarks “my parents would think it meant Caro and I were going to be friends, and I wasn’t up for explaining how high school really worked.” If anything, high school is the last place where things work out like they’re supposed to, and Scott acknowledges that, while managing to give Amy something to live for in the end.
For such a dark story, Love You Hate You Miss You is incredibly compelling. Once you pick it up, it’s really hard to put it back down again! Admittedly, the ending is a bit rushed and maybe a little predictable, but Scott gives Amy a strong voice and offers an emotional look at the beautiful and painful nature of friendship. Julia is always a presence, but she’s a silent one. Scott never lets her creep into the narrative as anything more than a memory and a lost pot of lip gloss. Amy’s last letter acknowledges that Julia will always be silent, and that’s a truth that she will live with.