Review: In Leah’s Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

Don’t you love it when not only is an author nice enough to send you a copy of their book, but also takes the time to write a nice note in the front of it too? Terri Giuliano Long seems like a lovely lady and I whole-heartedly wish her success with this book and her next, Nowhere to Run.

The Tylers have a
perfect life–beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and
talented daughters. Their eldest, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is
on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more
responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her
sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a
seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful
life…until Leah meets Todd, a former roadie for a rock band.

Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex,
and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of
their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old
Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their
fragmented family-leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and
if God even knows she exists.

In Leah’s Wake reads like an early Jodi Picoult novel – there’s a similar unfolding emotional saga, alternating perspectives between different family members and the strange, nagging feeling that you’re not really sure who you’re meant to be rooting for. It has a very ‘what would you do?’ type theme, as Will and Zoe attempt to reign in their rebellious teenager, although I suspect my zero-tolerance, Nazi-esque ideals of parenthood may be slightly over-dramatic. 

From the title, I figured that it would be a story revolving around the death of a daughter and the aftermath, taking ‘wake’ to mean ‘funeral.’ But apparently not – instead it refers to the trail of destruction and heartache that Leah leaves behind her as she continues to do, well, exactly as she pleases.

That was the sticking point for me – I liked the plot, the writing and the dialogue, but I just could not stand Leah herself. I didn’t really have difficult teenage years myself (it’s true, I was always a model child), so I always want to give recalcitrant adolescents a good kicking. I didn’t really have a problem with her rebellion – that is, after all, the point of the book – it was the way she did it that irritated me. She just whined and bitched, and refused to believed that not everybody was out to get her. She’s not a bad girl, and that’s kind of the underlying concept of the book, but she makes horrendously bad decisions. I know that she’s meant to make bad decisions, but I just couldn’t get past the overwhelming urge to beat her over the head.

But, like I said, there are five different perspectives, so it’s hard to stay annoyed with one character for too long. I particularly liked Justine, Leah’s sister, who feels pushed out of the frame because of the drama surrounding her older sibling. She’s a confused little thing, constantly torn between her parents and her sister. For me, she was the most ‘real-‘ as her grades slowly decline and she fails to take an interest in anything at all, I really wanted to reach across the pages and help her.

It’s a slow-moving story, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, the time is devoted to building up three-dimensional characters and creating believable dialogue. I’d have liked to have a few more questions answered in the epilogue, I think, but all-in-all it’s a good ending and I finished the book satisfied.

As a long story short, I really enjoyed In Leah’s Wake. The build-up of emotion and poetic dialogue creates a wonderful look at the unintentional sadness caused by angry teenagers, although I think perhaps Leah herself could have been less of a caricature of an adolescent.

Visit Terri Giuliano Long’s blog, or find her on Twitter.


  1. Hi Hanna,

    Thank you so very much for your thoughtful review! That you enjoyed the book means a lot to me. Your terrific overview and insightful, beautifully balanced observations give the reader a lot to think about. I appreciate that!

    I hope you have a wonderful day!

    Warmest wishes,


  2. Sounds like a good character story. I can see why you got so annoyed with Leah. I think I would have a problem with her myself. Don't think this one is for me, but then I don't read a lot of contemp YA.

  3. Nerd Girls says:

    I haven't heard of this one until your review. I think I'd like to eventually give it a try! I wonder if I'd feel the same way about Leah, my guess is probably lol.

    Great review 🙂

    Jenny @ Books to the Sky

  4. That sounds great, will definitely add it to my list of books to read. Love a bit of early Jodi P, so it sounds right up my street!

  5. Alexa says:

    I'm looking forward to reading this, as it's coming up in my reading pile! Thanks for the honest review 🙂

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