Just One Look
by Joanne Kukanza Easley
Black Rose Writing

"Did John die for nothing? What did it matter? Dead was dead."

Thirteen-year-old Dani Marek swears she's the exception to the rule about teenage puppy love. Fifteen-year-old John Nagy roots her to the floor with his first kiss and, for the next six years, holds her heart firmly captive with his Tennessee drawl, his lopsided grin, and his gentle charm. To his parents' delight and her parents' grudging relief, their love turns out to be the real deal, as, six Christmases later, John pops the question. But instead of her dreams, Dani's worst fears come true when John is killed in Vietnam. Half-crazed with grief, Dani marries Luke Bowman, a narcissist she doesn't love. After Dani ruins the marriage with a one-night stand, she feels unworthy of all love. Yet even from the grave, John is still a part of Dani's life. When Dani falls for Noah, John's best friend, is it real, or is she just in love with a ghost?

This romance is also an insightful look into Vietnam War-era pop culture. The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith scream out their greatest hits. Meanwhile, more women begin to identify as having careers and becoming financially and otherwise self-sufficient after divorces. The story demonstrates that after the fragmentation of nuclear families, the successful building of new cohesive family units can follow. Easley captures the constant worry of soldiers' loved ones and the debilitating depression that often follows bereavement. In presenting Luke's narcissism, the author subtly hints at the existence of the same character flaw in Dani herself. Dani's hatred of Luke seems an extension of her one-sided sibling rivalry with her beautiful younger sister Paige, who matures emotionally as Dani withers in self-pity. Women between their late teens and early twenties will likely identify with Dani's struggles. Additionally, readers unfamiliar with the history of the Vietnam War will find this an engaging initiation into the subject.

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