Underneath by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
""Dear Sunny: I don’t expect you to understand any of this yet, but we’ll always have yesterday . . . and today, and tomorrow. Maybe one day you’ll figure it out. I never could."
With a supportive family, great friends, and a spot on her high school’s swim team, Sunshine “Sunny” Pryce-Shah’s life seems perfect. Until the day her popular older cousin Shiri commits suicide. The shocking tragedy triggers heart-wrenching grief, unanswered questions, and a new, disturbing ability in Sunny—hearing people’s thoughts.
When Sunny “underhears” awful things about what her so-called friends really think of her, she starts avoiding them and instead seeks refuge with the emo crowd. But when she discovers her new friends’ true motives, Sunny doesn’t know who she can trust anymore. Feeling like she’ll drown in the flood of unwanted voices inside her head, she turns to her cousin’s journal for answers. Sunny must figure out how to keep everything from falling apart, or she may end up just like Shiri."- summary from Amazon
I loved Stevenson's debut and this book was just as good. It is different, in that it's got an element of magical realism to it- the underhearing. This whole concept really makes the book very compelling, as does Sunny's character. I really enjoyed being in her mindset and reading her voice. I also liked getting to know her new friends in the emo crowd; they were fun and of course had their own problems and dramas.
The ending of the story worked really well, but if I recall correctly (and I might be wrong), there really isn't an explanation given for why Sunny and Shiri developed this ability. I was hoping there might be some explanation, but there wasn't really. It was a little disappointing.
I did like the emphasis on family and how much they were involved in Sunny's life and in the storyline. So many YA novels leave the family on the sidelines, but Stevenson gave them two big events to work with- Shiri's suicide and the ensuing grief and coping, as well as Sunny's aunt's domestic violence problem.
Overall, this was a good book, though a bit slow at times. It is more of a character-based, coming of age novel than a book all about her underhearing ability. That is a part of it, and it does move the story along and bring up some issues, but the main focus is on Sunny finding her way in the world, at school and at home.
FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.