Summary: Best friends Grace and Kya have a rule to live by: Buds before studs. But a rape at the age of thirteen has changed Kya, and she hides her pain in alcohol and sexual encounters. Grace’s empathy for Kya leads her to continually make allowances for her behaviour, until Kya’s actions begin interfering with Grace’s future plans. Used to doing everything she can to take care of Kya and safeguard her well-being, Grace is eventually faced with a choice between trying to protect Kya from herself and realising that Kya must start taking responsibility for her own decisions. As the true nature of their friendship is revealed, Grace is placed in a position of protecting herself and her dreams above the most important relationship in her life.
Number of Pages: 309
Age Range: 15-17
Review: At base of How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler is the story of best friends whose relationship with each other trumps everything else. Devoted to each other, their friendship revolves around Kya needing help and Grace taking care of her. It works for them, and is the most important relationship in both of their lives.
The dissolution of this friendship is devastating for Grace. Though as the book progresses she is able to see more and more how Kya puts her own needs above Grace’s, but she hangs on out of loyalty for a long time.
My enjoyment of the story was frustrated by unanswered questions though. I couldn’t understand why Grace is portrayed as a trouble maker who often gets grounded when she seems so responsible. I wondered if Grace’s mother was talking about herself when she told Grace she knew of a woman who had been raped at a young age but survived, got help through therapy and went on to get married and have children. I also was expecting Kya to end up pregnant, because Gurtler keeps mentioning her need to pee and it seemed like an odd detail to keep including. And who won the last paint-ball game? Who got the spot on the all-female collage paint-ball team?
But the deeper questions I will be asking myself long after this will be about the portrayal of rape in our society and whether rape relieves a person of responsibility for self-destructive and manipulative behaviours. I feel sad after reading it, because it does acutely capture the sexualization of female friendships, and the risk of sexual assault in a culture that feels threatened when girls and woman step into predominately male roles.
There’s a lot more going on in How I Lost You than there first appears to be, and because of that I wouldn’t recommend it unless it was a supervised read.
“I had an image of her on a lifeboat, hanging on to it by her fingernails. I was slipping too. And truth stared me in the face. As I strained to pull her in and keep her afloat, she was starting to drag me under.” – Grace from How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler, page 242