Brooklyn can't sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca, died only a year ago, and now her friend Gabe has just died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants, or why it isn't Lucca visiting her dreams.
Nico can't stop. He's always running, trying to escape the pain of losing his brother, Lucca. But when Lucca's ghost begins leaving messages telling Nico to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.
As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until the learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.
Lisa Schroeder writes in free verse, rather than prose, because it "allows her to really get to the emotional core of the story." With CHASING BROOKLYN, this certainly is the case. There is very little auxiliary story to cut into the struggles of Brooklyn and Nico dealing with the death of a loved one. Every page is written with their emotional battle front and center and no words are wasted.
Brooklyn's an artist, whose art has been on hold since her Lucca died a year ago. Nico's a senior, struggling with what comes next in his life when he can't quite let go of the perfect brother he lost. They're going their own ways, trying to survive when another death rocks their world and brings them together to deal.
There is discouragement, there is newfound hope, there is love, there is training for a sprint triathalon. But, ultimately, CHASING BROOKLYN is about how two people need to come together and support one another in order to move on with their lives. It's about how hope can blossom through grief and about how we can all be "that person" for someone in need.
The thing that struck me the most about the story - even more than Brooklyn and Nico discovering each other - is the way Brooklyn discovers every one else who has loved, lost and lived through it (or needs to learn to live through it). How hope transfers from Ava to Brooklyn to Audrey, all through the guise of a CD encouraging Joy. It's a reminder of how much we need others to help us through our grief and of how much there is to live for.
Schroeder's characters are real and insightful, though I would have liked to have seen more difference in Brooklyn's and Nico's voices. They work through issues that readers can relate to: issues important, but not unrealistic. As a reader, I got the feeling that I was reading the diaries of friends and felt the sympathy and urgency and thrill of healing right along with them.
CHASING BROOKLYN is spare enough to be a quick read, but the words should be savored slowly and the issues contemplated for a time, even after one turns the last page.
Star rating: ***
CHASING BROOKLYN is available January 5, 2010 from online and brick and mortar retailers.
ARC courtesy of Lisa Schroeder via One Arc Tours