Evocative symbols, carefully drawn details and hints of romance enrich a spare, redemptive character study.
Home from a stay at Patterson Hospital following a suicide attempt, Ryan hikes to a powerful waterfall each morning to stand under the crushing spray. Nicki, the younger sister of a boy Ryan knows from school, sees him there one day in August and strikes up a conversation. For the first time, Ryan finds himself opening up to someone besides the two Patterson friends he now talks to by phone and online. As trust, familiarity and perhaps attraction build between the two, Ryan and Nicki reveal pieces of their personal histories, though each still harbors secrets. Defying both sensationalism and cliché, the narrative explores Ryan's suicide attempt and its aftermath with what Ryan calls “Patterson Honesty: the truth, stripped down of all formalities, all politeness.” Although much is made of understanding the past—the shame and numbness that led to Ryan's attempt, the unknowable reasons behind Nicki's father's completed suicide—the story is also about moving forward: Can intimacies built inside a place like Patterson survive outside? How can the parents of a teen who attempts suicide trust their child again? What can we ever truly know about ourselves and each other?
Haunting, hopeful and masterfully crafted. (Fiction. 14 & up)