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The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan…
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The Day I Killed James

by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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The Day I Killed James is a heartfelt tale about a girl learning to come to terms with her grief. It also sends a clear message: Don't be careless with other's hearts.

James is Theresa's neighbor, and he is in love with her. He is a few years older than Theresa and he is a little weird. I couldn't blame Theresa for not feeling the same way for James as he did for her. That happens sometimes. But when Theresa's boyfriend decides to be a jerk and take another girl to a party, Theresa ends up taking advantage of James' feelings and lets him go to the party as her date. Theresa was up front and told James it was just for the night, but with James being so in love with her, he got his hopes up.

After the party doesn't go as planned, James kills himself. Theresa's grief turns her into a whole other person. She shaves her head and moves away from all her friends and family to start a new life. Of course, Theresa was really only trying to run away from the pain. This is where the main story begins. Theresa was so real as a character. Her emotions came off so honest and raw. No, Theresa shouldn't have taken advantage of James' feelings like that, but it is ultimately not her fault what happened to him. Of course, that is easy for an outsider looking in to see. I know if I was in Theresa's shoes, I wouldn't be able to help but feel the same way as her. The diary entries from Theresa that the author added helped the reader feel exactly what Theresa was feeling.

Hyde's writing is remarkable. Not every writer can pull off switching from first to third person so smoothly. This is my first Young Adult book I have read from her. Before this book, I always knew her as the author of Pay it Forward. Now, I will know her as the author of great Young Adult books. I can't wait to read more from her.

I want to say more about this story that I enjoyed, but I will refrain. I think the sub-plots will be best experienced going in without knowing of them first.

The story ended exactly how I always say these stories are supposed to end, not all tied up perfectly, but leaves you with beautiful and pure hope for the future. After all, what Theresa has been through is not something that just goes away. The Day I Killed James tugged on my heartstrings and had me tearing up. I really enjoyed going through Theresa's journey to overcome what happened, and start on the path of self-forgiveness. This story is one that will stick with me. ( )
  YAaddict | Nov 4, 2010 |
Theresa's transformation is shocking and not cliche. When Theresa me and James' mom and realized it wasn't her fault that James killed himself. It wasn't cliche at all and is an emotional story. It never lets up on the gravity. AHS/MR
  edspicer | Oct 14, 2009 |
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

Everyone carries around some sort of guilt or regret. Most don't carry the burden that Theresa does.

James is her next-door neighbor. He's attractive, but a bit too bizarre for Theresa. And he's in love with her. He left for two years for the military and wrote her every week. She thinks she sent him maybe two letters in return.

Theresa is in love with her boyfriend, Randy. They've been dating for nine months now. However, he's just told her that he wants to take another girl, Rachel, to their friend Frieda's end-of-school party. There have been on-again and off-again periods with Randy before, but this is a first. Theresa lets him go, and in retaliation, she asks James if he'd like to go to a party with her. She is up front with him that it's purely for show, but James is thrilled to have the chance for even a pretend date with Theresa.

While James is off getting Theresa something cold to drink, Randy comes crawling back to Theresa, realizing he made a mistake. Theresa tries to think of James, but before she knows it, she and Randy are in a heavy makeout session. It's only after she hears James' motorcycle pull away that she starts to worry what he may think.

But that's not the worst of it. James doesn't come home, and Theresa goes to the cops. Not long after telling the cops he's missing, they come knocking on her door to tell her that his motorcycle has gone over the side of a cliff.

No one is to blame, but Theresa believes it's all her fault because of what James saw. Not able to handle the guilt or the remorse, she leaves home to reinvent herself.

Living in a beat-up trailer, a young neighbor girl starts hanging around. Before Theresa realizes it, life is changing again, and the thought-provoking actions of an eleven-year-old slowly brings Theresa back to the living.

What a powerful story. Theresa is determined to keep James' memory alive out of guilt. But Ms. Hyde weaves the story beautifully and the reader gets to see the slow healing process that Theresa, and also Cathy, her young neighbor, go through. You will surely laugh and cry with the story, but will come out much better for it on the other side. Just like Theresa did. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
James was Theresa’s neighbor. It was obvious to everyone, even to her that he was in love with her. Theresa however didn’t feel that way about James, she couldn’t help it, it just wasn’t there. He was four years older than her and besides that she already had a boyfriend, Randy. When Randy moves onto another girl, Theresa can’t help but use James’s willingness to her advantage. She knows he loves her, and she knows that using him is wrong, but he insists that he wants to be used. Theresa, however, didn’t foresee the events that would play out the night of the party, or she never would have asked James to be her date. Theresa broke his heart and he killed himself.Overflowing with toxic guilt, Theresa flees her old life. She shaves her head, changes her name and moves to a new town where no one knows her. Determined that she won’t let herself hurt someone again.Unexpectedly, Theresa’s salvation comes in the form of a young scraggly abused child, that lives next door to her trailer. They set out on a road trip that ultimately aids in healing them both.I can’t say enough good things about Hyde as a writer. She gets me everytime! The moral of this story is simple, be careful with other peoples hearts. The story, however, is anything but. The plot is intense, and the sporadic journal entries by Theresa add significant depth. Once again Ryan has superbly crafted a compelling tale that I soon won’t forget. The Day I Killed James: May 13, 2008. ( )
  the_story_siren | Jul 2, 2009 |
This powerful story had me hooked from the beginning, lost me a little bit in the middle, and got me again at the end. Theresa never meant to hurt James. When her boyfriend Randy broke up with her, she took James to the party as revenge. James knew that she wasn't that into him. But James never came home from that party and Theresa knows it's her fault. The Day I Killed James is a powerful story about a girl coming to terms with her grief and her guilt. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Nov 24, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 037584158X, Hardcover)

IT WASN’T SUPPOSED to end up like this. But it did.

When Theresa brings James to a party as her date, it’s just for the night . . . and he knows that. But when everything goes horribly wrong, James drives his motorcycle off a cliff—and Theresa knows she’s responsible for his death.
Theresa tries to run away from the pain, becoming a new young woman with a whole new life. She meets people, of course, but she never really makes connections—she’s too scared she’ll hurt them, too. But what Theresa discovers is that you can try to run away from the pain—but you can never really run away from yourself. The only way out is through.

This compelling tale of love and loss is about broken hearts—and how to begin to repair your own.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Seventeen-year-old Theresa tries to get past the guilt she feels over the death of a neighbor who loved her, first through a journal her therapist tells her to keep, then by transforming herself and starting a new life.

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Catherine Ryan Hyde is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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