A FACE FIRST by Priscilla Cummings


Age Range: 10 - 14
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When 12-year-old Kelley is terribly burned in an automobile accident, she must heal not only physically, but psychologically as well. Much of the novel’s action takes place in a burn unit, where Kelley begins to comprehend what has happened: in addition to a badly broken leg, one hand and half of her face are covered with third-degree burns that will take at least a year to fully heal. Cummings (Autumn Journey, 1997, etc.) keeps the third-person narration tightly focused on Kelley and her internal struggle to cope with her new reality, and this becomes simultaneously the novel’s strength and weakness. Compeling the reader to move through Kelley’s healing process with her, it quickly becomes almost relentless: “When they finished strapping the new pressure mask on her, when the Velcro straps were good and snug, when she saw the world through two small holes, Kelley knew she was truly alone. A prisoner contained in a cell of plastic.” It seems unfair to accuse a 12-year-old burn victim of narcissism, but Kelley’s undoubtedly perfectly normal reaction to her circumstance becomes somewhat tiresome when it is the only device to drive the plot. Predictably enough, she is coaxed into a more positive attitude by the end of the book, but this comes so suddenly and after so much denial that it’s unconvincing. The burn unit procedures carry a fascination of their own and will appeal to those readers who love weepy medical dramas, but Kelley’s ordinariness ultimately keeps her story ordinary, too. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-525-46522-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000


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