A powerful, tender reminder of the importance of friendship in times of trauma.

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THE EDGE OF ANYTHING

“You have to go through all the darkness….If you don’t, it will devour you.”

Driven, outgoing Sage Zendasky, Southview High’s star volleyball player, scouted by top colleges, finds her world shattered after a medical diagnosis that robs her of the ability to play. The unfortunately named Len Madder, the school outcast, is losing hope of winning the photography scholarship that could get her to college and is crippled by the fear that she’s losing her mind. A moment of under-the-bleachers panic draws the two girls together, and a tentative friendship forms. Finding little support from others, Sage and Len take solace in each other, each girl helping the other to heal. But as they spiral deeper into their private despair, their refusal to realize that they themselves need help might just cost them their friendship—and their lives. Carpenter weaves an incredibly rich tale of female friendship, beautifully written and refreshingly free of romance. Both characters feel wholly realistic in their interactions with each other, their families, their teachers, and their peers. A litany of painful topics—mental health, medical trauma, aging, grief and loss, financial insecurity, social isolation, and more—is handled with a deft touch that is equal parts humorous and heart-wrenching. A description of the author’s own battle with OCD emphasizes the story’s positive attitude toward seeking help.

A powerful, tender reminder of the importance of friendship in times of trauma. (author’s note, mental health resources) (Fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6758-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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