Cover image for Words and their meanings
Words and their meanings
First edition.
Physical Description:
354 pages ; 21 cm
Reading Level:
HL 730 L Lexile
Seventeen-year-old Anna O'Mally is a gifted writer but for the past year, since her beloved uncle Joe died, she's been wrapped in grief that seems impenetrable until a strange email suggests she didn't know Joe as well as she thought--and he wasn't the saint she believed he was.


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Anna O'Mally is a born writer - gifted, perceptive, headed for the stars. Or she was, until the tragic death of her uncle Joe. He was barely older than Anna herself, and she worshipped the ground he walked on. Best of all, Anna got to live in the glow of knowing that she was the most important person in his world, too. Anna has promised everyone - her shrink, her parents, her best friend - that Joe's one-year - deadaversary - will be the end of her period of mourning. But when a strange note suggests that her saintly uncle had deep secrets, Anna stumbles into a chain of events that changes everything she thought she knew about the past, the possibilities of love . . . and origami.

Bassett's debut novel scores a hat-trick of literary merit in a strongly crafted and complex plot, deeply drawn characters with palpable grief, and beautifully woven and rich prose. - School Library Journal (starred review)

A heartbreaking and fantastic debut. - VOYA

Author Notes

Kate Bassett (Harbor Springs, MI) is the Michigan Press Association award-winning editor of her small town's paper, Harbor Light News, and a contributing writer for the magazine Traverse. She has covered Mount Everest climbers, New York Timesbestselling authors, and pet pig obituaries with the same philosophy for eleven years: voice matters.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Joe's death has sent Anna into a tailspin. Her beloved young uncle was essentially a brother, confidante, and role model to Anna, adopted by her family after his own parents' death in a car accident years before. Who would have expected him to die from a bad case of the flu? To cope, Anna channels rocker Patti Smith, writing winsome Smith quotes on herself, chopping up her hair, holding her breath too long in coffin yoga poses she devises, and generally propelling through the year after Joe's death on turbocharged grief. Can an alluring new boyfriend help her recover? Will she ever get back to the award-winning writing that marked her early high-school career? Bassett's story is etched in sadness and loss, compounded by a parental breakup and the impending loss of a beloved grandfather on top of everything else. Some surprise twists help hone the plot of this intense emo romance, and the right readers will turn themselves inside out following Anna's raw grief.--O'Malley, Anne Copyright 2014 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-When 17-year-old Anna O'Malley's "bruncle" (uncle raised as her brother) Joe dies, she suppresses her grief and refuses to open up about him. She embodies Patti Smith circa 1973, writing daily Patti verses on her forearm and conducts morning corpse yoga where she lays absolutely still in her bed. Anna also gives up her promising talent for writing. Throughout the year following Joe's passing, Anna blames herself for tragic family events including his death and her parents' divorce. Her family and best friend are at a loss as to how to help her move on and are afraid of awakening past destructive and suicidal grief responses. While seeing her ninth psychologist in under a year, Anna strikes a "deadaversary" bargain with her family to return to normalcy to avoid "crazy Bible camp" in Hell, Michigan. As she starts to comply with the bargain, the teen's life begins to move on with a new job, a love interest, and a glimmers of happiness. But more family secrets and tragedies unfold. Eventually, the protagonist's attempts at suppression lead to an increase in self-destructive tendencies that spiral out of control until she can no longer hold back. Bassett's debut novel scores a hat-trick of literary merit in a strongly crafted and complex plot, deeply drawn characters with palpable grief, and beautifully woven and rich prose. This title will appeal most to readers of realistic fiction, especially those looking for a deeply engaging, emotional story.-Adrienne L. Strock, Teen Library Manager, Nashville Public Library (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

When Annas unclereally, he was more like a brotherJoe died, so did her passion for words.On the one-year deadaversary of her bruncle, who grew up with her as a brother in the same household, Annas no closer to recovering from her grief than when Joe succumbed to his fatal illness. And practicing what she calls coffin yoga and channeling her inner Patti Smith with daily verses written on her arm is the closest she gets to the writer she once was. In this deliberate, thoughtful first-person narrative, a series of incidents jolts Anna out of her constant guilt and sorrow. Her grandfathers unexpected accident and unfinished origami project give Anna a second chance at dealing with death on her terms. The discovery of some of Joes intimate secrets, including a letter indicating a relationship with someone other than his longtime girlfriend, offers an element of mystery to this work. Finally, the possibility of romance forces Anna to see beyond her own troubles and realize the needs of others. By reconnecting with the world, she may just find a way back to herself and her passion for writing.A contemplative look at redemption and relationships for readers with more literary tastes. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



Open publication Excerpted from Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.