The Death of Us
Callie is shocked when her friend Ivy reappears after an unexplained three-year absence, but the girls pick up where they left off, and suddenly Callie’s summer is full of parties, boys and fun. Beneath the surface, things aren’t what they seem, however, and when a handsome boy with a dark past gets tangled up with Ivy, the girls’ history threatens to destroy their future.
PRESS REVIEWS“…a story about a love triangle gone horribly wrong, but YA author Alice Kuipers proves that even the most standard devices can be shaped into something rich and intriguing.
The beauty is in the details, which Kuipers weaves through her narrative with a grace often missing from young-adult fiction. Her deft character descriptions leave just enough room for an imaginative reader to fill in things unsaid.
Kuipers has created a complex, interesting story about teens dealing with some hefty issues. Even the trope of the love triangle is given a welcome (and realistic) twist. If readers take away nothing from the book other than the simple pleasure of Kuipers’ well-crafted love story, so be it. But there’s much more to this cautionary tale.”
– STARRED REVIEW QUILL & QUIRE – Review by Katherine Pedersen, November, 2014
With her fourth novel, Saskatoon-based writer Alice Kuipers proves again that she knows what teenaged girls want to read, and she knows how to deliver it. The Death of Us effectively mines the multilayered world of teenagers to explore sexual diversity. While some readers may find aspects of their lives reflected in this novel, most readers will appreciate it for the authentic characters and mysterious, suspenseful plot.
The story moves back and forth in time between a deadly car accident and the 14 days leading up to it. We learn that two teens, Callie and Ivy, are in the car, but their fate is not revealed until the end of the novel. These two share the narration of the story with a third teen named Kurt.
The primary storyline is Callie’s who tells us she is a “successful, balanced teenager…” This seems to be true. Callie is highly involved with the school’s newspaper, has lots of friends and a loving family. Boys are interested in her, and she seems interested in one or two of them. And then the mysterious Ivy returns to town. While Callie is drawn to Ivy, Callie’s mother seems to almost fear Ivy and the strange pull she has on Callie. She accuses Callie of being “intoxicated by that girl” and forbids Callie from having anything to do with Ivy. But it’s summer, Callie is 16, and Ivy really is alluring. With little self reflection and lots of encouragement from Ivy, Callie soon finds herself lying to her parents and even sneaking out to bars to be with Ivy.
A lot of the tension in this novel comes from what people don’t say, cryptic comments, half finished thoughts and allusions to events from the past. While the chapters Ivy narrates do allow us a peek into her life, we are actually left with more questions than answers: Why have Ivy and her mother moved so many times? What’s the truth about Ivy’s last boyfriend? Ivy seems determined to start a new life, but why? And why does Callie’s mother dislike Ivy so much?
Even stranger than Ivy’s chapters are Kurt’s. These chapters jump forward in time to the hospital waiting room following the car accident. But there is a strange, disconnected feeling about Kurt’s narration, as though he’s watching and listening from a distance.
“I’d love to be like that, so provocative yet comfortable, so sexy”, says Callie to herself, gazing longingly at Ivy. For most of the novel, Callie fails to correctly identify her feelings, believing she wants to be “like that”. Instead, it may be that what she wants is something entirely unexpected. While the plot moves briskly towards the deadly car accident, Kuipers does a long, slow reveal of the truth of Callie’s feelings for Ivy, both to the reader and to Callie.
Kuipers has done a masterful job of integrating the important theme of sexual diversity into an engaging story about realistic characters in an intriguing storyline.
– Charlotte Duggan, CM Magazine (Charlotte is a teacher librarian in Winnipeg, MB)
“In Alice Kuipers’ The Death of Us, young love goes horribly awry when dark secrets and charged emotions spin wildly out of control, catapulting three friends into an uncertain future amid the headlong rush of glaring headlights and broken promises. Ivy is everything Callie is not: sophisticated, stunning, and experienced with boys. At the age of thirteen, Ivy and Callie were inseparable, until Ivy’s family suddenly left town under mysterious circumstances.
Now, three years later, Ivy is back. She is bold, beautiful – and she has her eye on Callie’s gorgeous friend, Kurt. As Callie struggles to adjust to a new baby brother, a new job, and her grandmother’s failing health, Ivy pushes Callie to loosen up and have some fun. Soon, Callie is caught up in a whirlwind of parties, lies, and alcohol. To make sense of their complicated relationship, Ivy, Kurt, and Callie must confront difficult truths about their pasts, even as their lives move steadily toward an inexorable fate.
Winner of the 2011 Arthur Ellis Award, Kuipers is ever the master manipulator, artfully deceiving readers to magnify the impact of the dénouement. While the plot’s non-linear structure and shifting viewpoints are jarring initially, readers will soon ease into the flow of the story as it progresses. Occasionally confusing details form a pattern that belies the book’s dramatic conclusion, yet closer inspection reveals the intricate design of Kuipers’ carefully constructed plot. A quick and turbulent read, The Death of Us is a brilliant coming-of-age novel with a sharpened corkscrew of a twist that will leave readers breathless.”
– The National Reading Campaign
“If you pick up The Death of Us, make sure you have some time because you’ll need some serious willpower to not read it all in one sitting. Also, keep the tissues handy – you’ll need them.”
– Amy’s Marathon of Books
“Alice Kuipers’s The Death of Us was an absolutely beautiful and powerful story. I enjoyed absolutely every page of this book and I am still trying to process everything that happened, days after I finished reading. If you are a contemporary love, I can’t recommend this story enough.”
– Emilie’s Book World