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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Teen Books That Have Something to Say


Tending to Grace

Review

Tending to Grace
by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Laurel-Leaf/Random House (reprint),(September 2005)
ISBN-10: 0553494236

My rating:



We drive out Route 6 on a silent day at the end of May, my mother, the boyfriend, and I. We pass villages with daisies at the doorsteps and laundry hung in soft rows of bleached white. I want to jump out of the car as it rushes along and wrap myself in a row of sheets hanging so low their feet tap the grass. I want to hide because my life, if it were a clothesline, would be the one with a sweater dangling by one sleeve, a blanket dragging in the mud, and a sock, unpaired and alone, tumbling to the road with the wind at its heel.
But I don't say anything as we head east.
My mother is a look-away.
--Tending to Grace, Kimberly Newton Fusco, p. 1.

Fourteen-year-old Cornelia is used to taking care of her immature, self-centered mother—and used to being ignored. Perhaps in a silent cry for help, or perhaps just as a result of the neglect, Cornelia stutters, is thought to be slow at school because she rarely talks, and she avoids eye contact. But nothing makes her mother focus on her.

Cornelia tries to make herself like a stone, silent and unhurtable. Then her mother gets a new boyfriend, and they dump her out in the country with her poor, elderly great-aunt Agatha—a woman Cornelia's never even met.

Life with Agatha is very different than her life in the city with her mother. The small house is falling apart, the phone doesn't work, there's no toilet, and there's hardly any food—certainly no junk food. And there's no books, except the ones that Cornelia brought with her.

Agatha has attitude, and her attitude gets Cornelia to talk, even though she stutters. Cornelia thinks that her eccentric aunt is the one who needs her help, and she does help her, but in the end, Agatha is the one who gives Cornelia what she really needs—love, attention, and a home.

This is a beautifully written, powerful novel. We are introduced to Cornelia at the point of change in her life—when her mother dumps her with her great aunt. And gradually, through brief flashbacks, the past is unfolded and woven into the present. This, along with the short chapters, intensity, and mystery (why Cornelia won't talk) works to propel us quickly through the book, yet give us an understanding of where Cornelia's coming from, and why she acts the way she does.

Incredibly fresh, evocative metaphors and analogies are used throughout the novel, revealing a lot about Cornelia and how she sees the world, as well as about the other characters. The emotional depth and understanding of how it feels to be neglected, and to feel so alone, feels very real. The loneliness and pain is often given to us in small, manageable chunks, which help the book move faster, and help the reader digest them easier.

Cornelia, especially, feels utterly believable, with great depth to her character. She is a likeable character—very intelligent, resourceful, and helpful, yet full of suppressed rage and pain. We also see her, as well as her aunt, grow and change throughout the book. Agatha, too, has layers to her, although some of her backstory feels forced, to create those layers and provide an explanation for some of her behavior.

There were a few brief chapters that felt like they were plunked down in the wrong place, out of order, or that didn't feel connected to the rest of the story, and the issue of Cornelia taking care of the mother, which is supposed to be one of the key issues of the book, seemed to be dropped for a while. Also, at times I wondered if stuttering alone would be enough to keep Cornelia so silent; I wanted to see her explore this more. And while we saw Cornelia's sudden knowledge of birds, we did not see Agatha teach her these things. However, these are small things compared to the whole; this is a masterfully written, compelling story.

All the details in this book feel carefully picked to not only give us a great sense of place or of character, but also to give us other meanings—telling us more about the character, comparing past and present, used as a metaphor, hinting at backstory. There are also good sensory details sprinkled throughout the story that often fit with how Cornelia is feeling. I've rarely ever read a book that so constantly and effectively makes description and detail do double duty.

There is wisdom, sensitivity, and understanding of pain woven throughout the story. Beautiful, evocative writing packed with emotion, this is a book that will grip you, and not let you go until you finish it. Highly recommended.

-Added April 2006


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