The Death of Us is a young adult suspense novel that starts with the news of a horrible crash then takes us back to before it all happened. From the beginning, we’re left to wonder what happened, the threat of the violence we know is going to happen hanging over the entire narrative.
The story is set in Edenville, a small city or big town that could be anywhere in Canada or the United States. Perhaps it was the bridges, and the fact that I know author Alice Kuipers is writing from Saskatoon, but Edenville ended up looking a lot like Saskatoon in my mind’s eye.
Kurt, Ivy, and Callie tell us the story from their perspectives, but it's Callie who’s the heart of the story. We only hear from Kurt as (what seems to be) a worried boyfriend, after the crash has happened. Ivy is beautiful and neurotic, and while you can understand her actions, she can be hard to relate to.
Callie is relatively down-to-earth; a frustrated teenager testing her boundaries and trying to figure out who she is. She and Ivy have a complicated relationship and as the story unfolds, it's even more complicated than anyone could guess.
On the surface, the story is a love triangle between the three point-of-view characters, but Kuipers doesn’t keep it so superficial. As happens in life, everything is more complex than it first appears.
In fact, the whole novel feels very real. The relationships are realistic. The challenges and moral quandaries the teens face are the same ones almost everyone faces at a certain point in life. In a break from the young adult genre trope of taking parents out of the picture by death, abandonment, or escape, the parents play a big role in the story for all three of the main characters.
This suffusion of reality throughout the novel is one of the reasons why the twist is so unexpected. Don’t worry, we won’t post any spoilers here, but suffice it to say, you won’t see this twist coming, and the best part is that neither do the characters. The rug gets pulled out from under readers and characters alike, creating an all around successful surprise.
About Alice Kuipers
Alice Kuipers is the author of four young adult novels, including Life on the Refrigerator Door which was published in 29 countries and has won or been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Redbridge Book Award, the Sheffield Libraries Choice Award, the Grand Prix de Viarmes, the Saskatchewan First Book Award, the Salt Lake City County Library System Reader’s Choice Award, and the Carnegie Medal. Alice was born in London, England, and moved to Canada in 2003 when she “fell in love with a Canadian.” She lives in Saskatoon with her husband, Yann Martel, and their four children.