{Review} SIGNS OF YOU by Emily France

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

Signs of You
   SHE'S BEEN DEAD two years when I see her in the grocery store. She's looking at bottles of bubble bath. She picks up a pink one, unscrews the cap, and sniffs. Her nose wrinkles and she puts the bottle back on the shelf. As she looks for a different scent, I blink.

I must be losing my mind. I look again. It's her. 

Everything about her is how I remember it—her chestnut bobbed hair, her smooth golden skin and high cheekbones, her familiar blue sweater zipped up halfway. She's wearing the dress we buried her in, baby blue linen with a tiny floral print. I blink and blink again. It's her. I am looking at my mother. The mother I last saw in a coffin; the mother we buried at Richfield Cemetery two years ago last week. The                                     mother whose dead because of                                     me.

(Page 1, US Hardcover Edition)

     “If you made me see my mom, ” I whisper through the glass case, almost angry, like a hiss, "then make her come back."


Sometimes you can't quite put your finger on what calls you to a particular book. The cover of SIGNS OF YOU by Emily France had been catching my eye for months whenever I wandered through the YA section of my bookstore. I kept pulling a copy, cradling it, reading the summary over and over and thinking "this feels like something I need to read." I ended up picking it up for the blog's mystery week but ran out of time to review it. I'm actually glad in the end, because to peg this book as any one genre or theme would be an injustice to it.

So what is SIGNS OF YOU about? Loss, grief, friendship, family, mystery...the human condition...it's about EVERYTHING. Our main character Riley and her three friends Kate, Jay and Noah have been tied together by loss. Each of them has suffered the passing of a loved one which has understandably discolored and changed their worlds. As if grief isn't hard enough to manage on its own, the plot gets thrown for a loop when 3 out of the 4 characters happen to see their deceased loved ones. These strange sightings start to grow in complexity, raising more and more questions, all which seem to lead back to a religious artifact Jay's father collected. I don't want to go into the plot too much because I think it's important for it to grab you by the heartstrings without you knowing what's coming, but let me tell you, I had visceral reactions. I cried, I gripped the pages of the book so tight my knuckles turned white, I whispered "Oh my god, Oh my god that is brilliant," out loud over and over. France weaves a plot that has layers, a beautiful mixture of mystery being unraveled and an idea of the afterlife that I have frankly never seen in literature before. I was in awe of how unique the storyline was.

But as you guys know based on my other reviews, the treasured gems in a story are usually the characters for me. And god does France write  a quartet of characters that mix into your bone marrow. I saw myself in them, I saw my own battles with grief and the guilt that can tighten around your neck after you lose someone. These friends are so close they are the people that can speak with glances, that know each other's thoughts before they are spoken. As with any group of teen friends, the empty spaces between their sad and heavy heartbeats are filled with humor. The sort of slapstick, comfortable banter you expect between best friends, and those moments balance out the sadder themes of the book perfectly. They are teens, and there is and never will be any teen dynamic that doesn't come with moments of tension, misunderstanding, jealousy or annoyance. Despite that, you can feel how tightly Kate, Jay, Noah and Riley are bound. The growth in these characters, they way they all start discovering new layers to each other as they try and figure out what's happening around them, was flawlessly done. It bleeds into the general plot, subtle and not trying too hard, but you are aware of it with every turn of a page. Reading about them will make you want to text your person or people, the ones you know you can call at 2am because when they say they are always there for you they mean it. 

I really wish I could talk more about how in love I am with the plot. At first I wasn't sure if this was going to turn into a book tinged with supernatural mystery, or if it would be more psychologically designated. In the end it was both, and it left me with such a strange feeling of peaceful calm at the end of it. If you like a book with a powerful ending that makes you feel like you're snuggling under a soft blanket and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa that's warming you up from the inside out, then you will love this book. If you love a book that stays with you after you've stopped reading, that serves as more than just a good read but as a door that opens your mind up to thoughts, questions, and reflections on your own thoughts about life and what comes after, you will love this book.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 (Kissing, mentions of crushes and unrequited love)
Language: PG ( No cursing )
Violence: PG ( Death is a theme in the book, but all violence is referred abstractly and in the aftermath, the violence is not present in the narrative.)
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This is one of those covers that means so much more to you after you've read the book. The coloring with the sunset, the way the girl looks like she's holding the sun in her hands, the birds blending into the title...it's heavy, kinda sad, wistful would probably be the best word. The cover seeks to move you, an appetizer to the way the words within will move you.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Emily France
Release Date: July 19th 2016
Publisher: Soho Teen
Received: Purchased

Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.

When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.

When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.