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Lessons from a Dead Girl

Lessons from a Dead Girl

4.3 34
by Jo Knowles

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Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was


Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn't Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Knowles promises more than she delivers in her first novel, which opens with a bold move. Leah Greene is dead; "It's over," says the 17-year-old narrator, Lainey, in the first chapter. "And it's my fault." A lengthy exposition proves anticlimactic: years earlier, when the girls were in fifth grade, popular Leah manipulated ugly-duckling Lainey into secret sexual experimentation, then used their secret to blackmail her. Over the years Leah's control deepens as Lainey glimpses clues that explain Leah's disturbing behavior (she is being molested by a friend of the family). Unfortunately, Lainey spends too much time feeling contempt for herself to leave readers enough room to identify with her, and credible, rarely addressed issues get buried beneath overdone characterizations and unrealistic plotting. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
After a tragic car accident, Laine McCarthy reflects on her friendship with Leah Greene. Outcast Laine was overjoyed when popular Leah befriended her in fifth grade. Leah's acceptance of Laine was intoxicating, with Laine passively doing whatever Leah asked. In public, the pair seemed like perfect friends, but in private, they shared a secret. Leah manipulated Laine to touch and kiss her intimately. Laine, afraid of being alone, tolerated Leah's exploitation. Laine's discomfort intensified when she observed Leah's agitated reaction to Sam, her parents' sleazy friend who gave the girls presents, including clothing and perfume, and rides in his sports car. After Laine confronted Leah for interfering when Laine met a boy she liked at the movies, Leah rejected Laine who again was friendless at school until Jessica Lambert initiated a friendship. Laine, Jessica, and a male friend, Web, indulged in a hedonistic lifestyle of drinking, drugs, and partying, which emotionally damaged fragile Laine, especially when Leah publicly humiliated Laine, exposing her deepest shame. Laine's achingly honest voice reveals how oblivious parents, predatory peers, and Leah's self-destructive behavior impacted Laine's perception of herself. Laine's narrative will haunt readers long after she describes frantically following Leah as she drives erratically and crashes, and then visits her grave. Similar teen angst contemplating friends' deaths is portrayed in Mary Beth Miller's Aimee (2002) and John Green's Looking for Alaska (2005). Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
L.G. + L.M. = F.F. When fifth-grader Leah Greene inks those letters on Laine McCarthy's hand and explains that they are now "Friends Forever," Laine is so deliriously happy that she chooses to overlook Leah's occasional spiteful remarks and mercurial mood swings. She even tries to forget the secret kissing and touching games that Leah teaches her. Leah claims the embarrassing and exciting sessions in the closet were just practice for when they were going with boys, but Laine suspects other girls are not practicing these things. Laine wonders why popular Leah chose her as a partner and whether her forever friend might instead be a manipulative monster? As the girls become older, Laine comes to hate her former friend, who now torments her with reminders about their secret activities. Even worse, she spreads rumors that Laine initiated their sex games and prefers girls to boys. Knowles's disquieting first-person narrative of sexual abuse and control among peers might appeal to readers who loved Go Ask Alice (Prentice-Hall, 1971), for it exemplifies the problem novel. Readers demanding a more substantial book will be disappointed with the melodramatic title, cardboard characters, and pedestrian prose. Descriptions of teenage drinking and sexual encounters sprinkled with an occasional four-letter word cannot disguise the fact that this book is little more than a modern version of a nineteenth-century Sunday-school tract. Nasty Leah and nanve Laine remain as tiresomely one-dimensional as any naughty or angelic Victorian misses. Reviewer: Jamie S. Hansen
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up
Laine, 16, has never fully understood why beautiful, popular Leah Green chose her as a best friend that day during fifth-grade recess. Quiet and plain, Laine feels awkward and unwanted in Leah's social circle, and the intense and often-manipulative way that Leah approaches their friendship makes her even more uncomfortable. But Leah is charming and persuasive, and when she pulls Laine into a closet one day to "practice" the sexual behavior that she says they'll one day use with boyfriends, Laine doesn't object. As the girls grow older, Leah uses the secret of their time in the closet as social and emotional blackmail, treating Laine alternately with sly kindness and calculated cruelty. By high school, Leah's behavior has turned self-destructive, culminating in a tragic accident. Her death sends Laine into a spiral of guilt, shame, and, eventually, clarity, as she explores their troubled relationship and finally confronts the painful events that led Leah to ensnare her in a cycle of abuse. The concise, clear style of this short novel belies the sophistication of its subject matter; Knowles sheds valuable light on the long-term emotional impact of child abuse and the roots of sexual abuse among peers. Her characterizations are sharp and nuanced, and she handles Leah, Laine, and the complex dynamic between them with respect and insight.
—Meredith RobbinsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Spare and evocative prose weaves the story of Leah and Lainey's turbulent and abusive friendship. Fast friends from a young age, Leah is outgoing, "smart, so the teachers love her and . . . beautiful so the boys love her," while Lainey is plain and introspective. During the younger years of their friendship, Leah is sexually abusive to Lainey, claiming that the two are "practicing." As the girls grow older, Lainey pulls away from Leah, confused and hurt by Leah's opprobrious behavior. Lainey falls in with new friends, while Leah becomes self-destructive. Over time, Lainey comes to understand the roots of Leah's odd behavior, but by the time she comes to fully grasp it, it's too late. Clearly and concisely written, Knowles's provoking exploration of children abusing children portrays the tense and finely crafted dynamics between the two girls. Lainey's character is extremely well-developed showing her metamorphosis from hypercritical and withdrawn to self-realized with a focused and knowing clarity. A razor-sharp examination of friendship, abuse and secrets. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
HL620L (what's this?)
File size:
959 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jo Knowles says the inspiration for LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL came from an article she read about kids abusing kids. "I began to wonder what makes childhood friendships so complex, so painful at times, and yet so binding," she says. The recipient of the 2005 PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, Jo Knowles lives in Vermont.

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Lessons from a Dead Girl 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laine possessed a bitter hatred for leah, wishing that Leah would die and leave her alone. She didn't understand her, or why she chose her to be her best friend all those years ago. She didn't understand the things that Leah did to her in the doll closet, or why Leah would torment her with that knowledge and the shame that Laine felt. As they grew older, she didn't understand the problems that Leah faced, or the impact that they had on her behavior. As their English teacher told them once, you only hate what you don't understand.
Now that Leah Greene has died, Laine forces herself to try to understand Leah, and the things that Leah taught her about friendship and secrets. Friends are forever, Leah told her. Permanent just like the ink that Leah used to stake her claim on Laine's hand back when they were young. Laine must now face the impact of what "forever" really means, and how it has affected her own aspects of the world.
Jo Knowles has penned a stunning book that takes an introspective look at the scars of childhood abuse at the hands of a child's peers. Laine's experiences will have a profound impact on anyone who has ever wondered about the dynamics of child sociology, and how the damaging effects of abuse resonate from the original victims. For the mature young adult.
If you liked such stories as Thirteen Reasons Why, Love Returns Through The Portal of Time, Someone Like you, Story of a girl and others like these great reads, I highly recommend 'Lessons From a Dead Girl as another must read for your library.
bobbles918 More than 1 year ago
Lessons From A Dead Girl was good cause it told the story that is never told. How the victim can become the predator and what it does to the victim. It's sad. Even though somewhere througout the book I myself hated Leah just like Laine but in the end I felt very sad for the loss of Leah even though she was the predator she also was the victim & was crying out for help in a self destructive way!
lLoveBooks More than 1 year ago
I read this in like 4 hours, a result of refusing to get up or go to bed. Anyways yes this may be a short read, but it was wonderful. A well paced story told by the main character Laine. In a way she reminds me of myself when I was younger. In other words, a push-over whom would do anything for their so called friends. If you like stories which are seemingly innocent with a dark twist then this is the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lessons from a dead girl is a really great book. Read it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great book! One of my absolute favorites! Read it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book..... not sure if its worth the money but excellent teen read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lizzemz More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book.
manna23 More than 1 year ago
Small, Simple read. I could not put it down, to have a friend you trusted all you life just turn on you and make you look like the crazy one. everything you trusted her with, everything you two did growing up.. she told you it was ok.... we are just playing....its our little secret
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is deffinantly recomended for high school and up. It has some sexual abuse, teen drinking, and suicide. I could not put the book down. It is one of the better books i've read. It is kind of like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, just instead of each chapter being a person it is a lesson that Lainey (the main character) has learned from her best friend Leah (who is dead). If you liked Thirteen Reasons Why, then you will probally like this book. And I personally think it is better than Thirteen Reasons Why. I have read this book three times already, it is just that good!
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wintergirl_13 More than 1 year ago
This book was very interesting, it reminds you of the people that slipped away in your life but yet have that importance that they seem to always find their way back. This book is one of my new favorites I couldnt out in down and when I did The events keep replaying in my mind an I had to find out what was going to happen next.
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SuzieCullen More than 1 year ago
this book was alright. it was good in the aspect that it shed light on a very difficult subject to discuss i just thought that the characters weren't believable. especially towards the end.