My Life As A Bench by Jaq Hazzel

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Why dump me here? It’s where the old people sit.

Seventeen year old Ren Miller is dead, stuck haunting a park bench memorial by the River Thames, London. Nothing haunts her more than her longing to see Gabe, her boyfriend while she was alive. Surprisingly while it may annoy some readers, thinking of teenagers and the obsessive all consuming love, I think some have forgotten what it early love is like. Ren and Gabe forever, right? What could be worse than being stuck riverside with so much life left to live? Being 17, and barely having lived any life at all. Ren meets a fellow spirit Lionel that has been riverside for much longer. It is through him that she is able to slowly dissect the life she no longer has.

People come and go, but not Gabe. All she wants is Gabe to visit her bench. She dismisses most of her loved ones, wanting no one but him. Self-centered, her longings clouded by hungry love. But when she catches in conversation between her mother and younger brother Jay that Gabriel is certainly the reason she is dead, she is obsessed with proving he isn’t. How do you prove anything when you’re dead and no one can hear you? Or can they? Can she haunt someone, isn’t she haunting this bench, in a sense? Could she be wrong about her beloved? Did he kill her?  She doesn’t want to believe it. She can’t believe it. All she wants is to connect with one of the living, to get to the truth, to keep her beloved from being blamed. But is she blinded by love or was someone else involved?

That she only met her father recently having fled her home after a different relationship soured, it’s tragic how little time she had with him too. We journey back and forth through her life, seeing the end of her dreams for becoming a singer with her death. Life is short and it’s brutal letting go, more so at Seventeen. That Lionel is older is a lovely idea, because much like speaking different languages, time in itself is similar. Inventions, pop culture, slang… is like a foreign country. It was a clever to remember that Lionel wouldn’t know slang nor all the devices we use. Ren came off like most young people do to their elders. Most people are self-centered, it’s our only real experience, and certainly so much more when we’re in our formative years. I was waiting for something to hit me in the gut at the end but it didn’t happen. Then again, maybe the intention of the author wasn’t meant to be shocking and dark. I’d expect more anger from a seventeen year old who just lost her life, is anything more horrifying to imagine, well aside from being dead and stuck riverside?

It’s a good story, there were times I felt we didn’t need to hear her go on about Gabe but if I am honest I have to remember when someone is in love, and especially young people before bitterness and experience poisons their soul,  it’s all they can annoy the rest of us with. This is one a much younger crowd may enjoy.

Publication Date: May 2, 2o17

Nowness Books

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