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Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo: Review and Q&A

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Home is where the bodies are buried.
Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.
Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:
Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.
At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).
Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?

Goodreads Summary

I loved Leigh's character.  She works in a graveyard and if that were me I would be constantly looking over my should despite claiming I wasn't superstitious (knocks on wood). She is a strong character who is dealing with a lot; her sister has leukemia.  It must be hard to think of your sister as as possible candidate for "Pre-Need."  Some other readers may find it hard to like Leigh right off the bat like I did because of her sarcasm and cavalier attitude.  I think that you have to be like Leigh in order to do the work she does.

The plot was nicely laid out and easy to follow.  The tone of the book was paced well.  I liked how Leigh's friendship with Dario developed.  Dario was a good balance for her strong, pushy character.  The ending was a little weird for me, but Six Feet Over It was an overall good read.  This book is recommended for young adult readers.   

3 1/2 Stars

1. How Would I react to working in a graveyard were I in Leigh’s position?

               I am nothing like Leigh as far as her resilience and ability to suck it up and do the right thing – I’ve got a big ‘justice’ complex. When things are unfair or just completely ridiculous, I have a problem sitting with it. If I were Leigh I’d have probably said, “Look. This is stupid. Hire someone, do it yourself, whatever – but I’m not sitting in here every day, it’s probably illegal and it stinks in here!” To clarify though, that’s what I would do TODAY, as an adult. At Leigh’s age I might say all that, then grudgingly go sit there all day selling graves anyway…I was very timid as a teenager when faced with authority. But while selling the graves, I’d be arguing with people in my head and plotting an escape plan. Maybe I’m more like Leigh than I thought!

2. My favorite character is a tie, when I know is sort of cheating but I genuinely can’t decide! I love Dario, and I love Elanor. I love them both because they have in common the fact that they know who they are. They’re aware of their faults, they try to be the very best people they can be, and they are both super generous with their time and attention when they see someone who is clearly trapped and wants out, but who has no idea how to ask for help. They don’t tell Leigh what to do, they invite her, they demonstrate by living their own lives how to embrace what she wants to do, they remind her she’s got just as much right as anyone to try and have a life, and to be happy. Also they both don’t take crap from stupid people or get all worked up about stuff that doesn’t matter in the end. I love them!

3. Little Known Fact That Makes My Book Appealing: This book is fiction, but there are whole swaths of dialogue that are taken directly from my elementary school-aged journals. It’s a fun game to pick out where those conversations are! Also, there are fashion details that are actually true to life that seem impossible. Find those and you win, too!

4. The hardest scene for me to write was one with Leigh and her mother late in the story. I really needed to show a moment where Leigh begins to realize she’s got to give up her frustration with this woman, wherein she wishes her mother cared more, whishes her mother acted more like other mothers. It needed to be a moment where Leigh understands her yearning is an impossible wish, and that instead of devastating her, it is a relief. She doesn’t have to fight anymore. Her mother is who she is, she will never change and sure, maybe her mother shouldn’t have had children in the first place. But for what it’s worth, the woman has love for Leigh. The scene needed to convey all that without being instructive or you know, ‘Oh, my mother is nuts but she actually does love me! All is forgiven!’ It wasn’t about forgiveness, or blame at all – it needed to be about understanding. It is a moment of huge emotional growth for Leigh, a giant step towards thinking as an actual rational adult, and she takes the moment and runs with it. It makes me so proud of her. She understands her parents will never be who she wants them to be, and this moment is the very start of that understanding. She’s exhausted trying to force reality to be something other than it is, and letting go of that useless battle is really beautiful for her. I re-wrote that thing a hundred times but I love how it turned out. It’s a scene about some Japanese Iris flowers. And yet, it’s not about them at all. The hardest scenes often turn out to be a writer’s favorite, and that’s one for me.

5 Who was the inspiration for Leigh: I’ve got to be honest and say Leigh began with my own thoughts about my own childhood, as so many first novel main characters do. There were a few situations involving death and incompetent, totally insensitive adults in my childhood that were so ridiculous I still get angry when I think about them, and I would write big journal entries about them, some of which ended up in the book but were later edited out. I began writing this book as a play in grad school, a solo performance that was auto-biographical, then it became a full-length three act play, then the book. As the story form evolved, so did the plot and the characters and eventually Leigh became ‘A Girl’ I was writing about, and stopped being about me and my reactions and experiences. Leigh is a million times braver and smarter and funnier than I ever could imagine being, and I like her quite a lot. I think she ultimately turned into a person I wish I could have been at her age. Or any age, really.

6. I definitely hope to publish more books! My editor is reading the MS for my second novel as I type. It’s a story of a ballerina who discovers too late that her body will never let her be a professional dancer, and in desperation to find a new path for her life, she goes to winter over in Antarctica. I love it, and I am desperately hopeful it finds a home with a publisher soon.

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ


  1. This book intrigues me! And a lot of it is because of the type of characters involved. I am definitely curious. And I really want to pick out some fashions, and conversations!

  1. Olivia Harvard said...:

    This sounds like such a unique read, and I love how the character Leigh sounds. Can't wait to pick this one up!