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Remembering Raquel

Review

Remembering Raquel

"Certain kids have a tendency to be invisible." Raquel is that kind of kid, the kind of girl who no one notices. Despite being overweight, Raquel is not the kind of girl who anyone notices --- she's the kind of girl who is picked last in gym class, who is overlooked as a date for the high school dance, and who rarely speaks up in the classroom. So perhaps it's not too surprising that when Raquel's teacher has to make the worst possible announcement --- that Raquel has been struck by a car and killed --- students "had to look to see who was missing, who Mrs. Bellanca meant."

Only a few people may seem to be directly affected by Raquel's death --- namely, her best friend Hayley, her online fantasy gaming community (where she was known by her busty blonde alter ego, Gylindrielle) and her father, who is still grieving the recent death of Raquel's mother from cancer. But as readers slip from voice to voice, from person to person, in this novel narrated by more than a dozen individuals, they start to realize that Raquel's life and death have affected more than just her closest friends and relatives.

There are the beautiful, popular girls who never had time for Raquel in life but who are devoted to preserving her memory through the dedication of memorial benches and the passage of traffic laws. There’s the popular girl who realizes, after the fact, that she may owe her very popularity to Raquel's kindness and silence. There’s Vanessa, the classmate to whom Raquel's death at first means merely "That makes me the class fat girl," but for whom Raquel's death eventually might mark a new beginning. There's the grandmother who is jealous of her husband, whose descent into dementia means that he is spared from having to deal with the death of a beloved granddaughter.

There are those who were on the scene of Raquel's death --- those who wonder whether she stepped off the curb in front of a moving car on purpose, those who hide secrets, and even the driver of the car herself. All may question why Raquel's death happened or examine their own involvement in her life and death, but few remain unchanged by the experience.

Each narrator's story is presented in a brief chapter. Sometimes lyrical, sometimes angry and sometimes questioning, but always honest, their voices combine to create a multilayered collage --- a portrait of a life that illustrates just how complex people are, right until the end. Of course, the only voice readers miss out on is Raquel's own (it is glimpsed merely through a brief excerpt from her blog). The girl who was always invisible is also silent. But through the stories of those who knew her, or who saw her (if only for a minute), readers will come to know her.

Most importantly, few could come away from this slim but profound gem of a book without a greater appreciation for how the actions we take in life --- no matter how small --- will affect how we are remembered.

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Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Remembering Raquel
by Vivian Vande Velde

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 137 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
  • ISBN-10: 0152059768
  • ISBN-13: 9780152059767