When the Light Went Out – Bridget Morrissey

Everything is something.

Marley was the oldest of eight neighbourhood friends, known as the Albany kids, and the mastermind behind their summer Adventures. Aidy, Teeny, Bigs, Harrison, Ruby, Nick and Olivia would join Marley, riding their bicycles around Cadence, California, enjoying the camaraderie and excitement of their scavenger hunts, never once reaching the end, always “in pursuit of a goal Marley never fully explained.”

Then Nick accidentally shot Marley. He and Olivia are the only ones who really know what happened that day. Five years have passed and Olivia is now older than Marley was when she died. The seven remaining Albany kids have all reunited for the first time since Marley died for one final Adventure.

“Trust me. The Adventure is going to have a different purpose this year.”

The story unfolds through mostly alternating chapters, some focusing on the lead up to Marley’s death and the others beginning the morning of the fifth annual memorial held at the City Hall. This provides a picture of the effect this tragedy has had on the individual Albany kids, their group dynamics, some of their family members, and the town of Cadence as a whole.

No one in Cadence wanted to remember what Marley’s death actually did to the living.

Marley was a complex character and I was never entirely sure if I liked her or not. I loved that she wasn’t portrayed in an entirely positive or negative way. I liked Olivia’s tenacity but at times her dramatic way of seeing everything irked me, although I understood the reasons behind it. I adored Nick, who was 11 when he accidentally shot Marley, and has had to essentially live with his pain alone, even though it wasn’t his fault. I enjoyed getting to know so many multifaceted characters, many of whom were keeping secrets, from others and sometimes themselves as well.

I hear a lot about gun violence but I consider myself very lucky that I can’t personally comment on its effects on the minds and lives of the adults and children who are left to try to pick up the pieces of their forever changed lives. If there’s one thing recent news items have shown it’s that we are currently failing survivors of this type of violence. It’s painful to read about but books like this are so important for both young adults and the young at heart.

Just some of my takeaways from this book are:

  • We need to be sensitive to the different ways people grieve
  • We can be haunted in so many ways
  • The meanings we attribute to our memories and experiences can alter our perceptions
  • People may be wearing social masks to pretend they’re okay when they’re really not at all. Don’t be afraid to look beneath the surface. “Let’s make it so that we never again have to ask ourselves, How did this happen?” Having said all of this, I don’t think I can explain what this book is about anywhere near as well as its author; I’d encourage you to read Bridget’s review, which can be found here.

Content warnings include discussion surrounding accidental death and suicide, description of a character’s death as a result of a gunshot wound, and body shaming.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc., for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Five years after the accidental shooting of Marley Bricket, her friends, who were there the day she died, reunite when a box of letters from Marley is found in her former home. The discovery leads them on a scavenger hunt that reopens old memories, wounds, and betrayals, and leads them to question what they thought they knew about Marley’s death.

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