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After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away Hardcover – August 22, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–Jenna Abbott, 15, is struggling to come to terms with the car accident that killed her mother and nearly took her own life as well. Formerly athletic and smart, she suddenly finds herself unable to concentrate or communicate with anyone. She is broken in both body and spirit and desperate to escape into the blue, which is how she remembers the drug-induced haze immediately after the accident. Not wanting anything to do with her father and his new family in California, she moves to New Hampshire to live with her aunt and uncle, and begins looking for ways to escape. She steals OxyContin from her uncle's medicine cabinet and becomes friends with Trina, who is dealing with her own substance-abuse problems. It takes two near-disasters for Jenna to tentatively open up to her classmate Crow and face her fears and grief. Oates is at her best telling the stories of teenage girls dealing with internal trauma and outside pressures. Jenna's pain at losing the only person truly close to her and the isolation she creates for herself are poignantly drawn. Her understanding that her choices are not what her mother would want for her is especially telling and may speak to teens in comparable situations. Similar in topic to E. R. Frank's Wrecked (S & S, 2005), this powerful novel is well worth reading.–Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. Haunted by the car crash on a bridge that killed her beloved mother, Jenna, 15, moves in with her aunt's family in New Hampshire, but she cannot deal with her guilt and sorrow. As a passenger in the car, was she to blame? Should she be dead? Therapy doesn't help. She won't reconcile with her dad, and she hates kids who pity her. Then she accidentally overdoses and narrowly escapes gang rape. It's Crow, the kind, gorgeous biker she loves, who saves her. There is too much going on, with everything spelled out, including the metaphor of her need to cross over the treacherous bridge. But Oates gets the contemporary teen voice just right, and Jenna's first-person narrative moves at breakneck speed. Best of all, though, is the end; as in Oates' amazing short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" the shocking surprise conclusion grows organically from the story and makes everything new. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; First Edition edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060735252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060735258
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.1 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,397,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce Carol Oates is the author of more than 70 books, including novels, short story collections, poetry volumes, plays, essays, and criticism, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys and Blonde. Among her many honors are the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the National Book Award. Oates is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates's new book for teens has a long title and it really does sort of give away the ending. Although, the ending is probably not the most important, rather the journey and its twists and turns.

Jenna is in a tragic accident with her mother on the Tappan Zee Bridge. Her mother and the driver of the other car are killed, leaving Jenna a survivor, but at what cost? The circumstances of the accident are unclear. What Jenna does remember leads her to believe she might have been responsible.

As Jenna struggles to recover from her injuries, she lives in a drug-induced haze. Her father, who remarried years ago, has a new family. Jenna certainly doesn't feel welcome in his home, so she's told she will be living with an aunt and uncle. Her mother's house is sold and her new home comes complete with two cousins, a new school, and the sometimes nosey concern of a small town.

Attempting to cope with new surroundings and the death of her mother sends Jenna into a tailspin of emotions. She meets new friends, but gravitates to those who help her forget with pills and alcohol. An accidental overdose lands Jenna in the emergency room and under the care of a therapist. Despite the care and concern of her caregivers, her life continues to spin out of control.

Finally there is the arrival of Crow with his dark and mysterious side. Jenna finds she can talk to Crow about things she can't say to anyone else. Does he care about her? Does he have the answers to get her back on track?

AFTER THE WRECK, I PICKED MYSELF UP, SPREAD MY WINGS, AND FLEW AWAY captured me right from the start. Jenna's struggle felt authentic and true. I was touched by her pain and sensitive to her attempts to move on, only to drift back into confusion. Oates definitely outdoes herself with this one.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow. Very realistic. She definitely did her research. My accident was at 16 and no one died but I was severely injured and experienced the same emotions she felt. I wish there would have been a larger focus on her concussion, referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury in health professions, as that very likely had a large impact on her recovery and personality (I know it did for me). I get that it was a book and had to cover each stage of recovery, but she definitely went through the stages much faster than me or anyone I know. Otherwise, incredible book, no matter your age.
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Format: Hardcover
Jenna's life is divided into before and after the wreck: before she lives with her mother in New York; after she's alone and hiding her feelings - until she meets the mysterious Crow, who may be the only person who can understand her trauma and why she's hiding it. A powerful novel of grief and recovery emerges from the telling hand of a long-time novelist who does as good a job for teens as she does for adults.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have ever known a teenager who sullenly withdraws into herself, begins doing poorly at school, denies cutting classes, drinks, lies, steals, and "accidentally" OD's on Christmas Eve--then you might recognize Jennifer Abbot, the 15-year-old protagonist in Joyce Carol Oates' young adult novel, After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away.
After Jenna's mother is killed in a freak car accident in which Jenna is severely injured, she is left feeling guilty (the accident must have been her fault) and angry (rehab is painful, her house is sold to pay for the medical bills, her teachers and friends feels sorry for her) and powerless (she has to move to New Hampshire to live with her aunt- there is nowhere else for her to go). Her father, who abandoned the family years earlier for a new wife and family, is of no help and Jenna's bitterness towards him fuels the flame of her anger and despair.
In her loneliness, Jenna finds acceptance from `Trina, a bulimic teen who befriends Jenna, but also uses her. A dramatic scene at a party gone bad shows Jenna the direction in which she is heading. Although the reader only sees him briefly, Jenna's one true friend is a young man nicknamed "Crow" who speaks words of truth that resonate in Jenna's heart. His own traumatic experiences (including his brother's death, living with a father who is an injured Vietnam vet, and his own accidents) enable him to come alongside of her and provides the exact help that she needs--a firm hand that pulls her out of her fears and self-incrimination and pushes her to move on with her life.
Oates use of symbolism is powerful. When you read this book, be aware of how birds and bridges are important in the story.
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Format: Paperback
Jenna Abbott was just a normal girl living a normal life, until the wreck happened. Nothing was the same after the wreck as before it--Jenna's friends, her home, even her own self. She has been irrevocably changed, whether she likes it, or wants to admit it, or not. She's really only a shell of the girl she once was, clinging desperately to distant memories of happiness even though she's on the verge of completely losing it. She can't trust anyone, can't let herself trust anyone, even her own family. And then Jenna meets Crow, who's got secrets of his own. Jenna finds that she can open herself up to him, but will this put her on the path of redemption and self forgiveness, or will she continues down the ugly road of self-destruction? In this emotional and moving story, Oates explores the trail of damage that death causes and the fragile strength required to rise about it.

Most of this story can be summed up with its lengthy title, After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away, because that is, in essence, what Jenna struggles with doing and eventually accomplishes. I really appreciated Oates' sometimes simplistic writing style because it so effectively conveyed Jenna's thoughts, emotions, and delusions. It's from this style of writing that I was able to truly grasp how damaged Jenna was by the wreck, and it caused my heart to go out to her. There is something so fragile and delicate about Jenna's character that makes the reader want to protect and take care of her, but at the same time, Jenna's nature does not permit this type of babysitting. I loved how complex Jenna was and how she struggled to distinguish between dream and reality, because I feel this is an issue many of us also struggle with, although not necessarily on so desperate a scale as Jenna.
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