This book in essence is somewhat of a coming-of-age tale. The central character, Phoebe, is a shy and unremarkable late-teenage girl who has for several years looked at the life of her older sister with a great deal of awe. Her sister having become almost a legend in her eyes and a standard by which she constantly examines herself. Eventually the story leads into Phoebe's spontaneous decision to retrace her sisters footsteps over Europe, culminating in Italy where her sister committed suicide.
As a novel this book is tremendously emotional and touching in a way that a novel of its content should be. By the end of the novel there is a distinct feeling that Phoebe has grown up, her experiences having carried her from being a shy and awkward adolescent to an experienced young woman. The novel is written beautifully with descriptions that are neither intensive nor dismissive of what happens, treating very tenderly the topics that obsess the thoughts of the protagonist. Throughout I was constantly finding myself drawing comparisons with how I felt as a teenager, comparing experiences. In some ways I almost feel as though I went on the exact same journey, just that my memory of it isn't as clear as I would like.
I would honestly say that this is a superb book, though at the same time it is very touching and very sad. Perhaps the best book that I have read concerning sibling relationships as well as the thin veil between adolescence and adulthood.