Project Description

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie
Teacher’s Guide

My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie

by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe

A troubled adolescent girl rediscovers meaning in her own life as she investigates the complex circumstances behind a young boy’s unexpected death

Everything in fourteen-year-old Allie Canarsie’s life has gone wrong. The new town, Nickel Park, where she has moved with her mother is a big disappointment. The rented trailer where they live now is cramped and depressing. School is a place to waste time and get in trouble, and friends are nonexistent. Worst of all, she has not heard from her father since he walked out on the family.

Feeling cut off from those around her, Allie finds herself drawn to the funerals of strangers. Here among the black-clad, sad-eyed anonymous mourners she feels a sense of belonging. But Allie’s strange new hobby takes an ominous turn when she becomes preoccupied with the death—and former life—of an adolescent boy named Jimmy Muller. Soon she becomes entangled in the lives of people she has never before known, including Jimmy’s best friend Dennis and Mr. Muller, the dead boy’s father. Allie’s determination to prove that Jimmy’s death was no accident sets into a motion a chain of events that forever alters her own life, as well as the lives of those around her. As she solves the troubling puzzle of Jimmy’s death, she finds some surprising answers to questions in her own life.

In this provocative and affecting novel for young adults, author Susan Heyboer O’Keefe gives voice to adolescent expressions of isolation and confusion that will resonate with young readers.

Paperback: $7.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-387-0
Total Pages: 224
Size: 6 x 8 1/2
Language: English
Format: E-book
ISBN: 978-1-56145-714-4
Age Range: 12 – 16
Language: English

Purchase this E-book through the following vendors:

Baker & Taylor
Barnes & Noble
Recorded Books

Accelerated Reader
AR Quiz#: 60661
AR Reading Level: 4.7
AR Points: 10

F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: Y
F&P Grade: 6

Reading Counts
Reading Counts Level: 6.2
Reading Counts Points: 18


“In her quest, [Allie] discovers not only the truth of Jimmy’s death, but also difficult truths about her own life. Having spent years building up defenses, Allie faces reality with grace and in a way that will appeal to readers. The unexpected twists and turns of the plot as she finds out what home and family really are make this coming-of-age novel a strong first offering for young adults.” ―School Library Journal

“The most remarkable aspect of this novel is Allie’s voice. Her character rings clear as a teenager who covers up her hurt and bewilderment with sarcasm and a stony facade of disinterest. Anyone who works with young people will recognize Allie…. Readers will be interested in the evolution of Allie and in the way O’Keefe integrates the relationships of her characters in completely real ways.” ―VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

“…Alexandra, a fierce, bright, smart-mouthed girl who skips classes blithely and goes after the truth regardless of the consequences, is worth meeting. O’Keefe renders her sardonic wisecracks and her painful loneliness convincingly and in the end readers will root for her.” ―Kliatt

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“Humor and suspense fill the pages. Allie is an unforgettable, real character. Teenage girls will identify with her smart mouth and lack of self-esteem. This is a definite pageturner for teens. Recommended.” ―The Book Report

“…Allie’s great voice and smart characters are a winning combination.” ―The Horn Book Guide

Read Less


Tayshas High School Reading List ―Texas Library Association 2003-2004

Arizona Young Readers’ Awards (nominee, Teen Book category) ―Arizona State Library Association 2007

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Meet the Author

Susan Heyboer O’Keefe is the author of more than a dozen books for children, including My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie, One Hungry Monster, A Bug from Aunt Tillie, Good Night, God Bless, and Love Me, Love You. She lives in New Jersey. You can visit her website here.