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Literature / When Dad Killed Mom

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My mother is dead.
Dad killed her.

The title of this juvenile fiction book by Julius Lester is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. One fateful autumn day, Jenna and Jeremy are called out of class to the principal's office, where they are informed that their dad has killed their mom. Then they have to deal with not only the loss of their mom, but that of their dad following his arrest for her murder.

When Dad Killed Mom provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Family: Jenna and Jeremy, who are siblings as well as the protagonists of the book. Averted after the events of the book, when Jenna asks Karen if she can change her name to Melissa.
  • Amicably Divorced: Eric and Karen, to the point where Karen has a close relationship with the family unit that Eric built with Rachel.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Jenna does this with Gregory, whose dad was Driven to Suicide.
  • But Not Too White: Jenna sees Miss Foster, the dark-skinned African-American assistant principal at Forest Green School and has an inner monologue complaining about her own pale skin.
    God, I'm so white I could puke! I don't care what Mom thinks, but next summer I'm going to dedicate my life to serious tanning and without any stupid tan lines.
  • Cry into Chest: Inverted. Jenna pulls Jeremy into a tight hug in such a way that his face is in her cleavage, but Jenna is the one crying.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Eric named Jenna after his dead daughter that he had with Karen, despite Rachel's wish to name her Melissa. At the end, Jenna decides to change her name to Melissa, specifically citing the fact that her mom wanted to name her that.
  • Death by Woman Scorned: Eric tries to make his murder of his wife appear justified by claiming that she was cheating on him, even though she wasn't. Ironically enough, Rachel's diary reveals that he was cheating on her.
  • Disappeared Dad: Eric becomes this after he kills Rachel and is arrested for it. Jenna bonds with Gregory, whose dad hung himself years before.
  • Domestic Abuse: Rachel is mentioned to have frequently slapped Eric before he killed her. Eric also frequently undermined Rachel's parental authority, especially when it came to Jenna.
  • Driven to Suicide: Gregory's dad years before the events of the story. Gregory dreads what he feels will be the inevitable event of this happening to him.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Gregory drinks to cope with his grief over his father's suicide and his sense of inevitability that, given that his father died that way, that he will as well.
  • Irony: Eric tries to make himself appear to be a sympathetic uxoricide by telling a story whose only true component was the fact that Rachel was planning to take Jenna and Jeremy away. The ironic part is the fact that every lie Eric tells about Rachel actually applies to himself.
    • Pædo Hunt: Eric insinuates that Rachel was sexually abusing Jeremy to make his murder of her look justified. What we see of Eric's relationship with Jenna, however, borders uncomfortably on incest, which is lampshaded by Rachel when she says to him, "You're her father, not her boyfriend."
  • Marshmallow Hell: When Jeremy arrives at the principal's office, his sister Jenna does this to him. She's distraught and crying over the news of their mother's death, so it's not really meant to be funny.
  • Meaningful Rename: At the end of the book, Jenna decides she wants to change her name to "Melissa Pierce". Melissa was the name Rachel wanted to give her at birth, and Pierce is Rachel's maiden name.
  • Missing Mom: Jenna and Jeremy's loss of their mother is the whole point of this book.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: After Jenna is told of her dad killing her mom, she reflects on the strained relationship that she and Rachel had just before her death, wishing that she had been nicer to her.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Gregory lives with his grandparents.