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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


Walk Softly, Rachel

Review

Walk Softly, Rachel
by Kate Banks
Farrar, Straus and Giroux,(September 2003)
ISBN-10: 0374382301

My rating:



Once upon a time there was a boy named Jake. He was tall and strong and clever. And he had a nice family who loved him. His teachers loved him. But he did not love himself. When he saw his face in a window, or in a mirror, he would turn and start to run. Pretty soon he was running all the time, further from home, further from his family, further from life, further from himself.
--Walk Softly, Rachel, Kate Banks, p. 25.

Rachel's family has been on hold since her older brother Jake died, years earlier. Fourteen-year-old Rachel hardly remembers Jake, and her family never talks about him. So when she stumbles on his diary, Rachel reads it thoroughly, and comes to know him better, perhaps for the first time. She reads of his anguish and pain, his vulnerability and fear that he kept hidden behind his good looks and many accomplishments, and his thoughts of suicide. Throughout the book, his thoughts coincide with Rachel's, perhaps too well; they feel too carefully arranged. For every major thought or realization that Rachel has, there is Jake's very same thought, or vice versa, along with other examples that make it feel like the point is being slammed home. However, the realizations are often insightful and deep.

The book opens up with Rachel's loss of her best friend, Adrian, who we only hear about off-stage and who we find hard to connect to, even though he clearly meant a lot to Rachel. The loss of her best friend intertwines with her loss of Jake, and as Rachel slowly reads Jake's diary, she makes new insights and changes, and starts to see her family differently. Over time, she comes to realize that the past has to be faced and can be healed, and that forgiveness is possible. A thought-provoking story.

We are told many things about Rachel, but are not always led to experience them with her, and sometimes it feels like we don't know her at all. Rachel laughs instead of cries, and cries instead of laughs—a trait she can't seem to stop, even though she really wants to, and a trait that could be very interesting, if explored more. The trait feels almost like a tool used to make Rachel more interesting, but it doesn't come off as totally believable. The same thing is true with her semi-boyfriend, Bowman, who suddenly appears lighting matches.

Rachel's parents also feel like caricatures—her mother, an emotionally distant, not present judge, and her father a doctor who tells jokes to cover up his pain. The characters, including, at times, Rachel, are not always convincing.

The entries from Jake's diary are powerful, well-written, and sometimes more emotionally engaging than Rachel; at times they overshadow Rachel. Yet all this is counterbalanced with incredibly poetic sentences that are woven throughout the book, along with simple, eloquent language and some great insights. "I feel the cold just as he's described it nestling in the layers of my skin. I remember his words, and I want to forget."

The simple, eloquent language in this book makes it an easy read, but there are awkward moments and areas where we are told the same thing repeatedly. An insightful, thoughtful book. There is some very powerful writing here, but many things interfere with the power of the story.

-Added August 14, 2003


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