Like the Red Panda by Andrea Seigel
Published by Harvest Books
Seventeen-year-old Stella is planning her suicide. She has two weeks of high school left in Orange County, California, and after graduation she plans to end it all. Her parents died together of drug overdoses when she was eleven, she has no connection with her foster parents, no real friends, and her only living relative is a crotchety, angry grandfather who doesn’t much care for Stella. So she spends the last few weeks of her time sitting back and observing and philosophizing every single detail of her life.
I can’t remember where I first heard of this book, but for some reason I had it in my mind that Like the Red Panda was comparable to The Perks of Being a Wallflower (a book I love). Well, if you plan to read this book, please know that is NOT the case. This book is completely different from any other YA book I’ve ever read, and can’t really be compared to any other novel. So don’t go in with any expectations like I had.
I cannot tell you how much my heart broke for Stella. Her situation is one that no teen should ever have to find themselves in – no family, no real friends, nobody to turn to for love and emotional support. It’s no wonder she doesn’t see the point of living anymore. It was difficult reading the book with the understanding of what she planned to do always looming in the background of everything she did, but as the novel went on I have to admit that I could see where she thought suicide was the answer. Although she had a lot of promise in her and a bright future ahead of her, with no one to love I can see how difficult life would be for a person. It was really heartbreaking.
In the midst of all this suicide talk, though, was an incredibly self-aware and often times hilarious teenager with the most interesting and astute observations about life. Stella is the kind of teenager anyone would want to love, as she is amazingly intelligent, has a great personality, and is wise way beyond her years. The fact that she has so many great characteristics about her makes her situation even sadder, as it’s obvious that had she been placed with the right foster family her life may have turned out a lot differently. I did enjoy reading the novel because she kept me so entertained throughout.
While I enjoyed Like the Red Panda overall, I absolutely hated the ending. I can’t explain why, for obvious reasons, but there’s no getting around that as it really changed the way I felt about the book once I finished it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
Like the Red Panda is an incredibly unique YA book with a heroine that is impossible not to empathize with. I liked it quite a bit.