A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend - Emily Horner | Lesbian Teen Novels Week

I am reviewing this book as part of
the Lesbian Teen Novels Week hosted here.
If you would like more information about the week,


Summary from Goodreads:
For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and while Cass is still reeling from her death, Julia’s boyfriend and her other drama friends make it their mission to bring to fruition the nearly-completed secret project: a musical about an orphaned ninja princess entitled Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.
Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She doesn’t feel at home with Julia’s drama friends, and she doesn’t see a place for her in the play. Things only get worse when she finds out that Heather Galloway, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school, has been cast as the ninja princess. 
Cass can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, so she decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware. 
Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad is a story about friendship. About love. About traveling a thousand miles just to find yourself. About making peace with the past, and making sense of it. And it’s a story about the bloodiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.


This book was recommended to me quite a long time ago by Lauren from I Was A Teenage Book Geek and I completely fell for this beautiful story which has some truly laugh out loud moments.

Cass has been friends with Julia ever since they were young and their friendship is as strong as one between two very different and complementary personalities. Cass is very introverted and loves math while Julia is into theatre and music and anything arty. If Cass is mostly withdrawn, Julia is full of life and bubbly. Julia has a boyfriend and a group of theatre friends and she makes Cass feel included in this group.
Then one day Julia dies in a car accident and Cass's world falls apart. She realises that without Julia, she doesn't have friends anymore, not even the theatre group who are so different from her. When they decide to do Julia's secret project - a hilarious musical with ninjas - Cass offers to help to create the set, until the group hires Heather, Cass's nemesis and the girl who has been bullying her at school, in the role that would have been Julia's, the ninja princess. They have a huge fight and Cass decides to go on the road trip she had planned with Julia for the summer. She is bringing Julia's ashes with her without telling her friends or even Oliver, Julia's boyfriend. Cass will not come back the same of this trip.

The book is divided between Then and Now, Then when Cass decides to go on the road trip and Now when she comes back home. Even though this is a tiny book, there are several themes present in the book and I liked how the serious aspects were counter-balanced by the slight craziness of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad and Julia's personality always present in the book.

Cass is a very interesting, though not always likeable, character in this story. She is very introverted and even though her parents love her, Julia is the one to matter for Cass. Cass is bullied at school and doesn't have any other friends - not that she is interested to make any anyway. Cass didn't have much in her life, but she had Julia who made everything ok. The loss of Julia hits Cass hard, so hard that she isolates herself from everyone else.
Cass never really tried to understand her feelings for Julia - they were close friends and that was it. But when Julia starts seeing Oliver, Cass starts feeling a bit jealous. Of course there are rumours started by Heather that Cass is a lesbian and everyone assumes that Cass has always been in love with Julia, but Cass never realised this herself. Even though she toughened a bit because of this and she always had Julia to defend her, Cass withdrew herself even more.
Her progressive realisation of herself and of her sexuality comes with the painful reality of the object of her affection being dead. Emily Horner describes this very sensitively I thought. Not everyone knows which gender they are attracted to since age 4 when they had a crush on their kindergarten teacher. Some people need to fall in love with someone to realise this and it is too bad that people always feel the need to know immediately and label people. Some people need time to get to know themselves, and Cass's story shows it exceedingly well.

There are some truly beautiful passages about friendship. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about the end of Cass's road trip and how the love they all felt for Julia brought this group of friends together. I really am and it is embarrassing since I'm at work. There's a really positive message in this and it's definitely the type of book people need to read to understand how some things may affect people deeply.
The part of the story with Heather reminded me a lot of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and how one person's actions may cause very serious consequences. I won't spoil the story for you but Heather's character is very interesting and a fantastic counterpart to Cass. The novel also shows how much people hide from others and how much a person can change. This is definitely not a story where evil people are evil and nice people are nice. It is an age where people get to know themselves and decide which type of person they would like to be.

I loved the setting of the novel, may it be in Cass's epic road trip in bicycle through America or the set of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. I will be looking out for Emily Horner's next books as I loved everything in this one and I still have the story in me after reading it months ago.
I am probably being confusing as there is so many things to say about this book and how it truly touched me. Cass's story is a beautiful coming of age story where one person loses everything and manages to find herself. It brings a very positive message for themes like bereavement/death, friendship and identity/sexuality. The characters are believable: full of flaws and preceded by a trail of mistakes but it doesn't make them either fondamentally bad or selfish, only human.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner | 2010 | Dial Books | Bought and read on my kindle | I would advise you to be mainly alone and in reaching distance of a box of tissues.


  1. I love this book, and I love your review. I really wish this novel was more well known (not to mention officially published in the UK) because it's one of the most beautiful YA LGBT stories I've ever read. It also strikes me as an accurate portrayal - there were definitely people I grew up with who were facing other people's speculations about their orientation *way* before they'd thought about it themselves.

    Also, it really *is* laugh out loud funny in places, isn't it? <3


  2. You had me at Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad. This sounds fantastic, and I've never heard of it (no UK pub? Boo). Off to track it down now. I can see this week is going to be expensive...;)

  3. I'm with Susie - the way you are reviewing is just begging us to buy the books. I have actually had this one on my wish-list fro ages, I think it was becasue of Lauren as well :D
    Fab fab fab review <3

  4. wow! this book sounds amazing! and said... I will try to track it down but remember not to read at work!

  5. *Smiles* I think this is a fab review and it sounds like a book that would really fit the UK market. Anon is right, it should be available here. I think I'd enjoy this except for the loss part, that sounds so emotional.

  6. nice book .. thanks for sharing this very emotional story ..

  7. Every time I read a review like this I am amazed how much YA has changed since I was a teen. This sounds like a novel I'd really enjoy.