King, master of troubled protagonists and surreal plots, is at it again.
Sarah, 16 and white, has had a breakdown after a series of events she won’t immediately reveal: there was whatever she saw with Vicky and Miss Smith, and whatever happened at the art show, and perhaps most importantly, there are the things she has been living with but refusing to know for her entire life, especially since the trip to Mexico six years ago. Sarah quits school, instead searching for meaning by following a homeless artist and befriending 10-year-old Sarah, another version of Sarah who has not yet forgotten what happened in Mexico or why their beloved brother has never visited since. Complex, unreliable narration (by 16-year-old Sarah, with interstitial passages narrated by her mother) brings to life what it means to live in a home where abuse is always threatened but never quite delivered, gradually revealing both the immediate triggers for the “existential crisis” and the underlying trauma. Sarah’s fractured selves (23-year-old and 40-year-old Sarah also make appearances) are both metaphor and magic realism; Sarah has fractured herself when the art that has been her solace becomes another point of tension and uncertainty, but these are not hallucinations.
King understands and writes teen anxieties like no other, resulting in difficult, resonant, compelling characters and stories. (Fiction. 14 & up)