Something very bad is happening to 17-year-old Nadia.
Ever since her family relocated to Florence for her father’s sabbatical, she’s been slipping out at night to steal random objects and then weave them into bizarre nest-shaped forms she hides from her family, and she’s losing her ability to speak. The first section of the novel is related by Nadia in brief, near-breathless, panicky sentences that effectively capture her increasing disintegration. Switching smoothly between entrancing flashbacks of her promising past—“It was so easy, being me”—and her painful, confusing present, which includes visions of a “fluorescent” boy with a pink duffle, real or imagined, Nadia relates her story in fragments. Her parents, remarkably slow to realize Nadia isn’t just having trouble adjusting, finally contact wise, nurturing Katherine, a doctor, for help. The narrative switches to the voice of Maggie, Nadia’s beloved friend and soul mate, who joins the family in Italy to help Nadia and to find the duffle boy, whose existence—or not—has become critically important. It is he who narrates the final brief section. With Nadia’s jumbled personality slipping away, the change of narrative voice is especially disquieting, offering few guarantees of a happy outcome.
Disturbing, sometimes unsettling and ultimately offering a sliver of hope, this effort rivetingly captures the destructive effects of mental and physical illness on a likable, sweet-natured teen. (Fiction. 11-18)