You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis (website | twitter)
Publication Date: 9/13/2011
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 304 Pages
Target Audience: Young adult
Keywords: Death of a parent, mystery, art, family, first love
Format read: Hardcover from library.
Summary: A year after her mother’s death, Luna visits her old studio and finds her old cell phone, fully charged with 7 messages on it. After listening to the first, she realizes there is a lot to her mother and her mother’s death than she initially thought and sets off on a journey to piece together her old life and finally be able to move forward.
Sometimes I hear a song and love it so much that I wish I could lay on my dining room floor for an entire day listening to it, letting it just wash over me. (In this fantasy, there’s sunshine coming through a window. Lots of it.) This is how I can best describe my experience of reading You Have Seven Messages. I wanted to soak in its beautiful and lyrical writing for as long as I could, never breaking my connection with these characters or this state of grief and discovery that was so eloquently described.
My heart was aching for all the good reasons and all the bad ones. Maybe I’m just a person who enjoys the melancholic situations. Probably. Luna, the 14-year old going on 30 main character, is serious, sarcastic, creative, and honest in a way that I wish more people would be. In a way that I strive to be. In fact, I think I’m a lot like Luna which is why I connected to her so much. I enjoyed her sassy humor, her love for the boy next door, and how much she loved her mother.
She’s also incredibly brave. She doesn’t hesitate much when she finds her mom’s old cell phone, and starts exploring this secret life — knowing full well her uncoverings could change her perception of this woman she loved so deeply. I also loved how protective she is of her younger brother, Tile, before and after she starts her sleuthing. (Tile is a highlight throughout the book, especially when he speaks in “script talk” – their dad is a well-known film director.) Here’s one beautiful quote that sums it all up: “He’s still a small flower and I feel like I’m becoming a strong tree. There will be storms, and he will need shelter.” Like his sister, Tile has matured since his mother’s death but I get the impression he was always a kid who acted a bit older. I really couldn’t get enough of him.
While Luna’s slight obsession with her neighbor, a talented cello player and older boy, Oliver is more of a supporting plotline. I loved to see Luna stumble and deal with her feelings for him and sort of grasp on to the same bravery she portrays when dealing with this mystery surrounding her mother. Oliver is also unlike many of the other YA boys I’ve read about… he has a certain confidence and maturity but he’s also held back by the mistakes and beliefs of his parents. Luna and Oliver’s relationship is so organic and sweet and special. They seem to have this silent support for one another, and an innocent intensity that I enjoyed so much.
There’s something about taking an intriguing idea and weaving it into this beautiful masterpiece. Lewis writes with such a precise and gorgeous rhythm. I was constantly jotting down lines or closing the book because I was overwhelmed by the art. The art and the skill of writing so beautifully and with such ease. It was inspiring and certainly gave me a tangible example of what I would love to aspire to someday.
You Have Seven Messages is about realizations in love and relationships and family, and also the pursuit of perfection, the idealism of a perfect relationship or family. And coming to terms with that idealism. It is about moving forward and dealing with the messy stuff. Forgiveness. The discoveries made are powerful, painful, and raw and I can just about guarantee you will have the hardest time putting this book down for even a few seconds. It is that engrossing.