Review: The Absolute Value of -1

Noah, Lily, and Simon have been a trio forever. But as they enter high school, their relationships shift and their world starts to fall apart. Privately, each is dealing with a family crisis divorce, abuse, and a parent’s illness. Yet, as they try to escape the pain and reach out for the connections they once counted on, they slip like soap in a shower. Noah’s got it bad for Lily, but he knows too well that Lily sees only Simon. Simon is indifferent, suddenly inscrutable to friends. All stand alone in their heartache and grief.–From Amazon

While The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things still wins my award for favorite comedic title, The Absolute Value of -1 is now my favorite conceptual title. It beautifully and perfectly captures the spirit of the novel. |-1| is told from the perspectives of four narrators, and each of their sections shows just how far apart each of them are from the middle. This story is not so much about truths and lies, but about the way that individual experience colors perception. The dark, snarky, math-loving Lily was my favorite of the characters; her narration swept me up from the get go and I was sad to leave her behind as I moved on to the other parts of the book.

Lily, Noah, and Simon are all preoccupied by drama of their own lives, and each teen constantly misimagines the lives of the other people in their lives.  Fans of John Green will see some familiar ideas portrayed in these characters who are too busy seeing their friends as they want to see them to realize what is actually going on. This was a beautiful book and character study that kept me thinking after walking away from its last melancholy pages. |-1| won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but it will invite you to consider just how much you know about what really goes on in your friends’ lives.

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