Things I’m Seeing Without You

ThingsImSeeingWithoutYouA modern coming-of-age novel with a voice that pops off the page

Things I’m Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni is an engaging read led by the strong voice of seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler. She pops off the page and I was surprised, when I read in Peter’s acknowledgements, that he said it took years to find the voice!

A virtual love affair with tragic results

Tess is in love with a boy called Jonah who she has met only once at a party. He is at college in Boston, she at a private school in Iowa and they begin a long distance relationship. She communicates obsessively with him through social media, sharing moments by describing every detail – all the things she is seeing without him. Their virtual love affair lasts a year when, suddenly, Jonah stops writing. Jonah is dead; he killed himself.

Vast questions about what teens see as ‘a relationship’

Tess’s world spirals, she drops out of school and lands on the doorstep of her loser dad because her mum is in India with her man ‘bending their bodies into lotus poses’. Death is a predominant theme and Tess struggles to mourn a boy she was never actually with physically. The book poses vast questions about what teens of today see as ‘a relationship’ and the dangers social media poses to human social interaction and it’s future because the next generation only know a world with a digital omnipresence.

Funny and touching, laughing alongside death

Even at her fathers, Tess cannot escape death – he is running an alternative funeral service that even stretches to dogs and race horses. Yes, this book is funny and Peter’s voice of Tess handles such a difficult subject well – you can laugh alongside death.

But this book is more about the living and how Tess and her father find a foothold together; Tess even helps his business, becoming a funeral planner with hilarious and touching consequences.

A gritty interpretation of modern love

Much of  Peter Bognanni ‘s book is about a new relationship Tess discovers and how she lets life in despite her grief. But if you’re expecting a romance akin to Twilight, think again – this is a gritty, real interpretation of what love and relationships are really like.

There are twists to delight and Things I’m Seeing Without You would be devoured by any teen girl. I would recommend this book to any parent of a social media obsessed teenager because it shows just how different the real world is to the digital one.


Peter Bognanni
Chicken House Books

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