From the opening pages of the novel, when Martha receives a journal entry from a dead classmate, to the closing pages, when Martha nearly drowns in the ocean, mortality is weaved throughout the storyline. The novel highlights how people who die can affect those who remain in surprising and unexpected ways. Martha, who barely knew Olive, spends her entire vacation haunted by Olive’s presence. A man who lived in the same rental unit as Olive mentions at the end of the novel how she even haunts him. The death of a person near to one can be disturbing and upsetting even if the person's nearness was more physical proximity than emotional closeness. It causes people to ponder their own lives and how they connected with the deceased. Mortality is also addressed in Godbee’s character. She will someday die and leave Martha and her family; Martha resolves to spend more time with her before that occurs. Death is not treated with morbid fascination in the book—instead, it is a tasteful and realistic undertone that doesn’t dwarf the characters’ lives. It enhances and adds depth and meaning to them. Because death highlights one’s own mortality and adds appreciation for life, Martha spends a good deal of time pondering her own life, what she wants to do with it, how she treats others, and how to make the most out of the time she is given.

Coming of Age

Throughout the course of the novel, Martha deals with many universal adolescent and coming-of-age trials such as crushes on boys, having her first kiss, being hurt and embarrassed by a boy, fighting with her parents and siblings, changes in friendships, struggling with her identity, and dreaming of a bright future for herself. These struggles are highlighted in the book through Martha’s experiences, and she navigates them with a combination of angst, frustration, and unhappiness. However, she learns a lot and comes out stronger and more mature...

(The entire section is 694 words.)