ALISON, WHO WENT AWAY

Susan—who now wants people to call her Sibyl—is 14 and fiercely angry. Readers find out right away that her sister Alison is gone, but not where, or why, although it is clear that the rest of the family is deeply wounded. As the story unfolds, Susan/Sibyl tries out for the drama club at the local boys' school—she and her friend Connie are thinking stage crew, but both end up in the cast. As daily life grinds on, readers meet Susan's troubled kid brother, her gentle stepfather, her gay dad, and her tightly wound mom. Susan is bitter and guilty and pushes hard against all of those who reach out to her, and we learn, in wrung-out bits, what Alison did and what she said and how she's probably dead. The denouement, which comes in a seriocomic run to a funeral parlor the night of the eighth-grade dance, feels a little forced, but the unfolding of Susan's family's anguish is done at just the right pace, with each shard of emotion placed precisely. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-04585-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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GETTING NEAR TO BABY

Couloumbis’s debut carries a family through early stages of grief with grace, sensitivity, and a healthy dose of laughter. In the wake of Baby’s sudden death, the three Deans remaining put up no resistance when Aunt Patty swoops in to take away 12-year-old Willa Jo and suddenly, stubbornly mute JoAnn, called “Little Sister,” in the misguided belief that their mother needs time alone. Well-meaning but far too accustomed to getting her way, Aunt Patty buys the children unwanted new clothes, enrolls them in a Bible day camp for one disastrous day, and even tries to line up friends for them. While politely tolerating her hovering, the two inseparable sisters find their own path, hooking up with a fearless, wonderfully plainspoken teenaged neighbor and her dirt-loving brothers, then, acting on an obscure but ultimately healing impulse, climbing out onto the roof to get a bit closer to Heaven, and Baby. Willa Jo tells the tale in a nonlinear, back-and-forth fashion that not only prepares readers emotionally for her heartrending account of Baby’s death, but also artfully illuminates each character’s depths and foibles; the loving relationship between Patty and her wiser husband Hob is just as complex and clearly drawn as that of Willa Jo and Little Sister. Lightening the tone by poking gentle fun at Patty and some of her small-town neighbors, the author creates a cast founded on likable, real-seeming people who grow and change in response to tragedy. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23389-X

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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CLOSE-UP

“On the basis of their own words” Dudevszky wrote first-person accounts of the sad ordeals of several teenagers who are unable to reside with their families. There are reasons—often a list of reasons—the teenagers no longer live at home, and none of them are good. Marco’s father molested his sisters, Brenda’s parents were addicted to alcohol and drugs, Manuela’s father beat her, and Leyla had to escape from Iran for political reasons. The message that trumpets through is how desperately these youngsters, most living in foster or group homes in the Netherlands, need attention and affection. Jerry, a youth home resident, says, “I don’t get homesick at all. I don’t see my parents that much. They don’t come on my birthday. Well, so they don’t. I’m not going to lose sleep over it.” Maarten, 16, who was moved six times in four years, says, “I often felt lonely. Every time you go to another place you’re all on your own again.” Although the book is worthy, the tone is understandably depressing, and after a while the individual stories lose their bite. Readers who have the pertinacity to get through it will root for Asena and her “number-one wish,” which is “to become happy.” (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1999

ISBN: 1-886910-40-5

Page Count: 125

Publisher: Lemniscaat/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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