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Rabbit Ears and Caramelldansen

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
This past spring, I received the task of spreading word about The Girl in the Park as a Spring Ambuzzador. With my pack, I received an extra review copy of the book, and I handed it to one of my bestest friends, knowing that it was a book down her alley. The book inspired her to write a review, which I might have asked her if she was interested in writing, and her review turned into contemplations on death and its impact on people. This her story, one she requested that I share, and the story of a good friend of hers and everyone who knew him.

The Girl in the Park is about confronting death, confronting murder, and overcoming self-image. It is like Katherine Patterson’s Bridge to Terabithia for the teenage soul. Both books explore the question “why do young people have to die?” Except unlike Bridge to Terabithia, this is not a child’s fantasy land. This is real life. This is a body found in a playground in central park with her shirt and bra pushed upwards. This is a party girl in an elite school who always “gets” someone else’s boyfriend. This is the girl who was seen at a party not too long ago and is now dead. This is a former best friend who drifted apart through high school due to her partying and boy-chasing habits. This is also the girl who told shy, quiet, timid Rain, who has been made fun of for cleft palate and her speech therapy since elementary school, “Speak up girl!” Because Rain is quiet, she listens to what everyone else has to say. She is perceptive. According to Wendy, she is therefore brilliant and has something meaningful to say.

Wendy, despite her horrible choices, spent a large part of her life inspiring the kids around her to accept themselves and pointed out their strengths, even though she craved for attention herself. While everyone around Rain frowns upon Wendy thinking she deserved her fate, Rain pieces together the true story and confronts her murderer. In the process, Rain leaves behind her shy, timid self - scared of showing the world her disabilities. Wendy is dead, but Rain is reminded that she is alive and for the first time ever, she speaks. For the first time ever, she finds her voice. One of my favorite portions of the book is a passage on women in stories opening boxes they’re not supposed to, wanting to see what they shouldn’t, because they want to know what’s really going on. They want to feel alive. And Rain asks why they are always told no.

High school was just a year ago, and I forget already how tender hearted, quiet, and timid I was, without the added complexity Rain faces with cleft palate. I forget how much my self-image depended on my peers’ opinions of me – “the weird one”. I forget when I learned that my peers’ opinions of me depend on whether or not I demand respect from my peers, and my self-image depends on myself and my confidence.

Mariah Fredericks reminds me of how I felt when one of my also-distant-but-good-friends committed suicide my senior year of high school. I actually pulled out one of my application essays from last year after reading the book. I did not feel like writing college application essays after he died so I wrote about him instead:

“Hi Mayisha! How are you doing today?” “I’m alright, just stressed…” Of course, I have an English test later today. I am sick of drama in the debate team. My father is out of the country. There are a million and one reasons to be stressed, and obviously, my face shows it because I couldn’t hide my emotions if my life depended on it. Why else would he be asking me how I am today? “Aye milady” and somehow two or three seconds later we were standing side by side with our hands above our heads like rabbit ears swinging our hips left and right. I learned the fastest way to get a flat stomach. It is not fifty crunches a day; it’s caramelldansen with a few friends and giggling until it hurts to laugh.

That is Will Smart. He has a fairytale like voice that sounds like a cross between Scooby Doo and Captain Jack Sparrow. He is instinctively and spontaneously hilarious. He is not afraid to use random accents. He is man enough to wear a pink tutu to raise money for special needs children. He is lighthearted, free spirited, and is frankly the opposite of my serious self. I suppose he is somewhat like Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter, except Will doesn’t need magic to make everyone around him laugh. I forgot to tell him that day, but every day I knew him, I was happier.

We all forgot to tell him. On Saturday November 13, 2010 Will Smart passed away. He went up to his room, took a gun, and shot himself. He died instantly. “Will died.” Those words shouldn’t sound so abstruse. It’s a two word statement with a subject and a verb. I acknowledge the fact, but I refuse to understand it. It has been weeks since his funeral, and I still have trouble swallowing the idea that Will is dead. (college app essay)

Like Rain, I did not understand why Will (Wendy) had to die. Like Rain, I realized “it could happen to anyone.” I would have never thought of Will as the type to commit suicide, and I recognize that even I could be na├»ve and trusting enough to possibly end up in a park with a person who seems to care but could also hurt me. It is easy to trust, easy to be blinded by love, but hard to suspect people you trust will hurt you. Like Wendy with Rain, Will taught me to speak up. He taught me to make sure I let my friends and loved ones know how I feel about them. He taught me not to take my friends for granted. He taught me that happiness is more important than stress, to love is more important than to judge. He taught me to trust the journey that is my life. He taught me to be grateful. He taught me to:

Stop every now and then with my hands above my head like rabbit ears and swing my hips side to side caramelldansen. (college app essay)

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1 comment on "Rabbit Ears and Caramelldansen"
  1. What a powerful post. This sounds like a book that will stay with the reader long after they are finished reading. I have recently heard a lot about this book- and it has all been good. What a great cover!


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