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My highlight for young people - what a great book!

Not gone and not there
by Anne Freytag

Rated 5 stars

With * her mouth full of unsaid things * Anne Freytag wrote herself directly in my heart and it was clear to me: Everything this author writes, I will inhale from now on. This is primarily due to the fact that Anne Freytag writes very modern and youthful, but also very explicit, refreshing and simply authentic. She does a great job of focusing on her characters, giving them space and connecting them to the reader. That already blew my mind with "The mouth full of unsaid things" and I felt the same way again with "Not gone and not there". This book is quieter, quieter, more melancholy and somehow more withdrawn, but it is also so incredibly strong and powerful. I'll tell you right from the start: This story has it all.

And that is primarily due to the strong protagonists - Luise and Jacob. After her brother's tragic suicide, Luise has a hard time finding her way back to life and while reading I kept having the feeling that she no longer knows herself (or doesn't want to know) and that with Kristophers death she lost a large part of herself. But what impressed me incredibly from the beginning: Luise seems incredibly self-confident in her vulnerability and desperation - that may of course be largely her armor, but you can already guess pretty early what a strong development Luise will go through in the course of history becomes. And two people are to blame for this: Kristopher and Jacob. While Jacob, who somehow feels drawn to Luise from the first moment and cannot explain his fascination for this quiet, withdrawn girl, is actually there and supports her exactly when she doesn't let anyone get near her anymore prefers to hide from the whole world, Kristopher is present all the time, even though he is dead.

This idea is somewhat reminiscent of Jay Asher's "Dead Girls Don't Lie" (and in fact there are several allusions in the book to the Netflix series of the same name, which, by the way, I find incredibly good - in contrast to the novel) - Hannah Baker's suicide and her tapes have Anne Freytag possibly and quite possibly inspired to her story. But she deals with the topic very differently and approaches it in a completely different way. Because Kristopher didn't leave his sister the emails primarily to justify himself or to make his decision understandable to her. Kristopher doesn't want to hold anyone accountable after his death - his only concern is Luise and the fact that she accepts his death, processes it and lets joy into her life again. Kristopher is the trigger for Luise's deep grief and at the same time he stands by her and helps her to overcome it. A thought that struck me from the first page and that on the one hand is incredibly sad and moving, on the other hand it is also incredibly beautiful and full of hope.

"Dead girls don't lie" (the book) left a lot of gaps, which I found very problematic for a youth novel. With Anne Freytag there are no empty spaces - she gives Luise the strength to face her brother's deed - as painful as it is - she lets her be angry and desperate, lets her hate Kristopher and love him, condemn him and him understand. And that's exactly what makes the story so real and engaging. Anne Freytag grasps the ambivalence of suicide - she doesn't romanticize it, but she doesn't demonize it either. It shows unadorned and in a very painful way the tragic effects Kristophers decision had on his family. What his suicide made of Luise and her mother. But it also shows the other side - because Kristopher was bipolar and Anne Freytag is incredibly good at putting the constant ups and downs of his life into words.

You can actually understand Kristopher in a certain way. But one can also understand Luise, who had to put back all her life in favor of her brother. Who might not get the attention she needed and who learned early to protect her older brother. Which feels empty after his death, but deep down inside maybe also free and that is exactly what makes this story so special. Kristophers death is not black or white, it is gray. And somehow it is both hopeful and tragic at the same time. Luise's handling of this incredible loss is clearly the focus, but I was also moved by the reaction of her mother, from whom Luise gradually feels neglected and misunderstood. Luise lives with the spirit of her brother and his emails as well as Jacob, who is her support at a time when she needs her most, help her to let him go.

All the topics that Anne Freytag deals with in "Not gone and not there" weigh heavily and get under your skin when you read it - suicide, depression, the death of a brother and a child, dealing with grief. Anne Freytag approaches these issues in an equally open and sensitive manner and she manages to make you breathe again and again despite all the melancholy. Is incredibly happy about every small step that Luise takes back to a happy life. And that you get involved with Luise and Jacob - two people who find each other at a time when they need each other more than anything else. I am just blown away by the scope of this story and all the feelings that have stormed me while reading have made me weary and almost depressed. But only almost: Because the story gives so much courage and hope and in the end there is pure joy in life. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this great book!

My conclusion
I didn't really expect anything else: "Not gone and not there" is the second book by Anne Freytag, which completely knocked me out, dismantled me into my individual parts and then put back together again. Above all, I admire her ingenious writing style and I love her multi-layered characters and I just sympathize with every single word. I can't say it any other way: "Not gone and not there" is for me one of the best youth books I have ever read!