It's very hard to describe One For Sorrow as the story and structure are so unique. Basically, it's kind of an "I see dead people" book. After a high school student is murdered in a small town in Ohio, he starts appearing to certain of his friends. But that's really the backdrop for a musing on learning to love and learning to let go. In fact, one of my favorite lines in the book that really sums up this theme beautifully for me is: "No matter what anyone says, don't believe the lie that we're told, that love is the greatest thing on this planet. Love only means you have something to lose."
Barzak is a professor in the creative writing program at Youngstown State University and his facility with language is evident throughout the book. In particular, the story uses the conceit of "words" and the main character (Adam's) relationship with words as an allegory for the things he's learning and feeling. There are also plenty of other clever themes and symbols in the writing including allusions to childhood nursery rhymes (it's right there in the title), books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and theological symbolism (Adam's name being just the tip of the iceberg here). It also plays with themes of gender identity and sexuality very subtly and in a very moving way. This is an intriguing, smart, and melancholy book that is very hard to let go of even when you finish reading it.