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Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia Paperback – May 28, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up-Seventeen-year-old Frenchie is surprised when Andy Cooper asks her out-she has had a crush on him for years, but he barely acknowledges her. On top of that, it is a strange date as they trek to various places that seem to be important to him. When Frenchie finds out the next morning that he has committed suicide, she wonders why he chose to spend his last night alive with her. A bit of a loner, Frenchie discovers the grave of Emily Dickinson and pretends that the woman is the famous poet and makes her her best friend and confidante. After all, the grave is just down the street from where Frenchie lives in Orlando, Florida, convenient for get-togethers and gab fests. Grieving over Andy's death, Frenchie must discover why he thought he had to kill himself. She enlists Colin, a boy she met at a club, to help her retrace their steps on Andy's last night. Despite its dark topic and the depths of Frenchie's sorrow, there is an undercurrent of humor in her observations and her conversations with Em, which keeps the novel from becoming overwhelmingly a book about death and grief. There are also the realistic aspects of teen angst as Frenchie wonders why Joel, her best friend for almost forever, has a new girlfriend, someone Frenchie does not like at all. This is a fast, well-written read with a satisfactory though not necessarily happy ending and a protagonist to remember-a survivor and person of action. A solid choice that is accessible even for reluctant readers.-Janet Hilbun, Texas Women's University, Denton, TXα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Francesca “Frenchie” Garcia lives on a block that dead-ends into a cemetery, which makes bearing witness to funeral processions a neighborhood pastime. Although she patterns her thoughts after Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Frenchie’s daily paradox balances between the blinding light and heat of an Orlando summer and the paralyzing doom and gloom of a death obsession. Frenchie is trying to make sense of the suicide of her high-school crush, Andy, who chose to spend his last night with her. In addition, her passion for art is derailed after rejection from the art school of her dreams, and her childhood friends are following the postgraduation natural order of growing up and out. With well-paced revelations, Sanchez gradually strengthens Frenchie’s resolve to heal and move forward, ultimately letting her friend Colin tenderly help her retrace the events leading up to Andy’s death. Frenchie genuinely wants the funeral in her brain to stop, and the author wittingly ensures that the reader wants nothing less for her. Grades 9-12. --Gail Bush

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press Kids (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762446803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762446803
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Before writing her debut novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she's ever met. She's grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories--many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children. Visit her website at:

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rob Slaven TOP 50 REVIEWER on May 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
As I say almost every time, I received this book via a GoodReads drawing. Despite this kind and consideration my candid opinions follow.

Our protagonist, Frenchie, is in a definite funk. She's generally a rather dark and dour character in the best of times but over the past four months things seem to have gotten steadily worse since that boy down the street committed suicide...

For the second time in three days I'm writing a review about characters dealing with grief. While the first was grief as viewed from the outside by many different people, this grief is specific, hidden and deeply personal. Nobody knows Frenchie is grieving because nobody knows why she would have any reason to be grieving for this boy to whom she has ostensibly no connection. As the plot unfolds we learn the story of their hidden connection and see the reason for her sense of loss.

In general when I read books in the "Young Adult" category I try to cut them a bit of slack. These are generally tuned down and simplified to fit comfortably into small and growing minds. Prepared though I was to make this allowance for this book I found it to be wholly unnecessary. Mrs Sanchez deals openly with a tough subject with no 'dumbing down.' Her characters are in real and obvious pain and deal with it in a way that is not only believable but moving.

Also when examining YA books I ask myself the simple question of whether I'd let my own teenager read the book. While there are a handful of profanities and some amount of smoking, this the real world and there's nothing that every kid hasn't heard 1,000 times by the time they're 13. Sanchez wonderfully balances a real world with the impressionability of her audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Y on February 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was drawn to this book because, well, I’m a sucker for long and elaborate titles. Fortunately, my love for long titles did not lead me astray. Frenchie Garcia’s obsession with death is a very real one — she lives on the down the street from a cemetery. But, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that her preoccupation with death is not only caused by her locale. The death of her classmate Andy Cooper occupies her thoughts and takes a toll on her relationship with her closest friends. Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia reads more like a mystery than anything else. The story of Andy Cooper’s death and Frenchie’s role in it is slowly revealed as Frenchie’s life unravels.

Bits and pieces of Emily Dickinson’s poetry help take Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia to the next level. Frenchie loves Dickinson’s poems and finds comfort in her one-sided conversations with Dickinson. Each poem in the book gives meaning to Frenchie’s experiences. It’s also a great crash course in Dickinson’s poetry if you’re not familiar with it.

The book’s strongest point is the portrayal of Frenchie’s relationships with her close friends and parents. Even though the book is from Frenchie’s perspective, you can really get a sense of what her friends think of her and how they treat her. Frenchie’s emotional turmoil leads her to sabotage her own friendships, but they hold strong. Unfortunately, the issue of depression is not mentioned or addressed. Still, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is an interesting reflection on death and those it affects, as well as the strength of friendship.

Recommendation: Get it soon, especially if you’re a fan of Emily Dickinson!
Review crossposted from Rich in Color: richincolor [.] com
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Format: Paperback
Frenchie Garcia is stuck in a rut. With graduation in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for Frenchie to figure out her future. The problem is, she can’t seem to find the motivation. Ever since her classmate Andy Cooper died, Frenchie’s thoughts have revolved more and more around death. What no one knows is that Andy spent his last night with Frenchie and what she thought was the beginning of something ended up being his final goodbye to the world. Now Frenchie must find a way to accept what happened if she has a chance of moving on.

Jenny Torres Sanchez’s Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia deserves a lot more credit and attention than it’s been given. I’ve been making an effort to seek out more Latina authors and when I came across this one, I had to read it. Frenchie has been pulling away from her friends for months, seeking refuge at the cemetery down the road where she holds imaginary conversations with Emily Dickinson. While not the resting place of the real Emily Dickinson, her namesake feels pretty close enough. Drawn to the poet because her poetry often deals with death, Frenchie is prone to some pretty morbid thoughts herself and it’s quite clear she’s never dealt with the suicide of the boy she once liked. She’s cynical, moody, and likely to scowl at any given moment, which actually makes her incredibly relatable. Her standoffish and stubborn attitude toward those pushing her to become the girl she once was makes sense only to the reader who begins to understand how Frenchie’s and Andy’s lives intersect as the story moves forward.

I loved the way this novel was structured, weaving together Frenchie’s present with the night she spent with Andy.
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