Age Range: 12 & up
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 A massive nuclear accident has just occurred in southern Vermont. The first scene in this compelling novel parallels the kind of negligence that caused it: Eighth-grader Nyle and her friend Muncie confront a vicious neighbor whose dog has slaughtered sheep on Nyle's grandmother's farm. The young people are masked, even though a west wind has mitigated most of the fallout from the nearby plant. But Boston has been evacuated; an uncle has had to destroy his cattle; and though rain clears the air, much farmland is poisoned, death's full toll is yet to come, and the prevailing, often irrational fear will soon drive a wedge between the girls. When Gran takes in two survivors from the plant, Nyle is stricken: Ezra, 15, now lies deathly ill in the room where her mother and grandfather died. Conquering her memories and her dread, Nyle brings all her imagination to helping Ezra heal both his body and a deeply troubled spirit. In time, he starts school and begins to ponder how people, like sheep, can be led to foolishly accept a known danger; Ezra hopes to live to do better. In the hands of a less gifted author this scenario might signal an issue-driven story, but Hesse transcends the specific to illuminate universal questions of responsibility, care, and love. When Nyle compares Ezra's courage to Anne Frank's he cries out, ``Do I have to die in the end too so people won't forget what I died for?'' The answer is almost inevitable; yet Hesse portrays her characters' anguish and their growing tenderness with such unwavering clarity and grace that she sustains the tension of her lyrical, understated narrative right to her stunning, beautifully wrought conclusion. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8050-3108-1
Page count: 186pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994


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