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WITHOUT TESS by Marcella Pixley


by Marcella Pixley

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-36174-7
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Tess’ drowning five years ago weighs heavily on sister Lizzie, who, at 15, struggles with her feelings of guilt and betrayal for not doing enough to save Tess from herself.

It was natural for Lizzie to look up to her older sister, especially when Tess let her into her magical world of make-believe. Tess was convinced that she was not mortal, with mundane needs like food. Sometimes she was a wolf, sometimes a horse and, most dangerously, a selkie. By the time Lizzie was 10, she had a hard time keeping up with 11-year-old Tess’ delusions and demands. Tess’ disapproval of Lizzie’s unwillingness to believe in the magic turned Lizzie’s perfect birthday sour. Her words filled Lizzie with terror, her voice “low and hollow, as if she [had] fallen into a hole and [was] suddenly talking to me from ten feet under the earth.” Tess left a journal filled with gory images and dark poetry, and it becomes the tool that Lizzie uses, with the help of a school psychologist, to come to terms with the truth. Lizzie’s narrative voice moves seamlessly between the present and the past, interspersed with Tess’s poetry.

Pixley (Freak, 2007) once again plumbs the emotional depths of a tough subject with sensitivity and insight into the complexities of human nature and sibling bonds. (Fiction. 12 & up)