WHAT REMAINS by Helene Dunbar


Age Range: 14 - 17
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A 16-year-old boy attempts to put his life back together after suffering a near-fatal injury in a car accident that leaves his best friend dead.

A heart transplant saves Cal Ryan’s life, but as he sets out on the road to recovery, a familiar voice begins to invade his thoughts. After some not-so-subtle foreshadowing, Cal finds out that Lizzie, his deceased best friend, is the heart donor; it's her voice he hears. Cal must cope with his grief while nurturing his other friendships, but there isn’t much of a plot. He suffers survivor’s guilt and must also come to terms with the end of a promising future playing baseball, so his anger and depression are understandable, but he comes across as whiny and unlikable. The story is told in Cal’s first-person voice, but too much internal exposition and overuse of “or something” to replace more creative description make for painful reading. Clichés abound: the gay drama geek, the depressed artsy girl, the homophobic jock, and the oblivious love interest populate the novel’s thinly drawn world. The theory of cellular memory is tossed around, and ambiguity surrounding whether or not Lizzie’s ghostly presence is literal or metaphorical is the novel’s only asset.

Misses its chance to be a satisfying, big-box-of-tissues tear-jerker. (Fiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 8th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-7387-4430-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Flux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


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