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At Risk Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1989

4.2 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this moving novel, Hoffman has written a story about a family attacked by tragedy, and has given it a larger relevance by confronting one of the most frightening issues of our times. The Farrells are a middle-class family living in a small New England town. Ivan Farrell is an astronomer, wife Polly a photographer, eight-year-old Charlie a budding biologist and 11-year-old Amanda a talented gymnast. Hoffman has few rivals in depicting domestic scenes: the bickering between siblings, the tension between spouses, and withal, the humor and love that holds families together. Suddenly the Farrells are singled out for grief. Amanda, who has been winning gymnastic meets despite a summer-long malaise, tests positive for AIDS, contracted some five years before when she was transfused with contaminated blood after an appendectomy. In unsensationalized detail, Hoffman depicts the effects of her illness. Too stunned, angry and anguished even to turn to each other, Polly and Ivan retreat into separate worlds. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and shunned by his schoolmates. Amanda, an average adolescent who loves Madonna records, must come to grips with the process of dying. The hysterical reaction of some members of the community is a further blow. Hoffman's sensitive handling of this material is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Ivan's friendship with a man he meets through the AIDS hotline, Polly's search for comfort with Amanda's pediatrician, Charlie's stoic bewilderment, Amanda's bond with a young woman who is a medium (the only evidence in this novel of Hoffman's characteristic feeling for the supernatural) are all beautifully portrayed. This will be a book that people will talk about and recommend. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Redbook; movie rights to 20th Century-Fox; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Probably destined to become the first best-selling novel about AIDS, Hoffman's newest work is heart-wrenching. Star gymnast on her school team, 11-year-old Amanda yearns toward adolescence. When her illness is diagnosed (she'd had a blood transfusion for an appendectomy), her familyphotographer mother Polly, astronomer father Ivan, and 8-year-old brother Charlieexperience the expected disbelief, anger, and sorrow. However, because Amanda has AIDS they also experience rejection by old friends and trouble at school. As Amanda's life dwindles away, the family struggles, begins to dissolve, but finally reconnects. First-rate "contemporary issue" fiction that will leave few dry eyes. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (September 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425117383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425117385
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alice Hoffman was born in New York City on March 16, 1952 and grew up on Long Island. After graduating from high school in 1969, she attended Adelphi University, from which she received a BA, and then received a Mirrellees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, which she attended in 1973 and 74, receiving an MA in creative writing. She currently lives in Boston and New York.

Hoffman's first novel, Property Of, was written at the age of twenty-one, while she was studying at Stanford, and published shortly thereafter by Farrar Straus and Giroux. She credits her mentor, professor and writer Albert J. Guerard, and his wife, the writer Maclin Bocock Guerard, for helping her to publish her first short story in the magazine Fiction. Editor Ted Solotaroff then contacted her to ask if she had a novel, at which point she quickly began to write what was to become Property Of, a section of which was published in Mr. Solotaroff's magazine, American Review.

Since that remarkable beginning, Alice Hoffman has become one of our most distinguished novelists. She has published a total of eighteen novels, two books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her novel, Here on Earth, an Oprah Book Club choice, was a modern reworking of some of the themes of Emily Bronte's masterpiece Wuthering Heights. Practical Magic was made into a Warner film starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Her novel, At Risk, which concerns a family dealing with AIDS, can be found on the reading lists of many universities, colleges and secondary schools. Her advance from Local Girls, a collection of inter-related fictions about love and loss on Long Island, was donated to help create the Hoffman (Women's Cancer) Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Blackbird House is a book of stories centering around an old farm on Cape Cod. Hoffman's recent books include Aquamarine and Indigo, novels for pre-teens, and The New York Times bestsellers The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, and The Ice Queen. Green Angel, a post-apocalyptic fairy tale about loss and love, was published by Scholastic and The Foretelling, a book about an Amazon girl in the Bronze Age, was published by Little Brown. In 2007 Little Brown published the teen novel Incantation, a story about hidden Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which Publishers Weekly has chosen as one of the best books of the year. In January 2007, Skylight Confessions, a novel about one family's secret history, was released on the 30th anniversary of the publication of Her first novel. Her most recent novel is The Story Sisters (2009), published by Shaye Areheart Books.

Hoffman's work has been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, and People Magazine. She has also worked as a screenwriter and is the author of the original screenplay "Independence Day" a film starring Kathleen Quinlan and Diane Wiest. Her short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Self, and other magazines. Her teen novel Aquamarine was recently made into a film starring Emma Roberts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
At Risk is an awakening look at how one virus can affect an entire community. When Amanda Farrell, an aspiring eleven-year old gymnast, is diagnosed with the AIDS virus caused by a blood transfusion during a routine operation, not only are she and her family's lives thrown into turmoil, but many other people are affected as well. This book was a truly amazing account of the emotions and experiences of an AIDS patient, her family, friends, doctors, and teachers as they deal with the illness individually and as a unit. To paint such a vibrant picture, the characters developed by the author, Alice Hoffman, had to be truly believable and readers must be able to connect with them. At Risk's characters were no disappointments. Ivan, Amanda's father, is very well developed. When he consults an AIDS hotline and goes into alternative treatment methods for Amanda when he, being generally a scientist and opposed to such things, we see how scared and desperate he is beneath the surface. Polly, Amanda's mother, is another wonderfully portrayed character. Instead of what many people would expect of someone in her situation, she is actually human and must struggle between her life and her daughter's. Amanda's doctor, Edward Reardon, is possibly the best-developed character in the entire novel. We see how he deals with Amanda, a lifelong patient, being ill with a terminal disease affect him at a professional level as well as a personal level. He is forced to sacrifice time with his own family for time with another, and that effect is a sad one we might not often realize. Lastly, Amanda herself was a very honest, true character.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There is probably nothing on earth more cruel and inexplicable than the death of a child, especially when a child succumbs to a horribly cruel disease known as AIDS. "At Risk" is the story of Amanda Farrell, 11 years old, who has been carrying a killer virus inside of her for five years, ever since a routine appendectomy in the early 1980's went awry and she had to receive a blood transfusion. They didn't test blood for HIV back then (how far away it all seems now) and Amanda got a dose of contaminated blood that has been slowly, invisibly, but all too relentlessly killing her. She's looking forward to sixth grade, she's a star gymnast on her school team, but all of a sudden she's hit by nausea, night sweats, and a host of other opportunistic infections. When her doctor, a family friend, gives her parents the diagnosis, it impacts on the family with all the force of a detonating bomb. But this is only the beginning. This is the 80's when the word AIDS sent ordinarily sensible people into mindless hysteria. Amanda's brother is eight years old and healthy, but his best friend's mother won't let her boy associate with him any more; what if he touched something Amanda touched? The principal of Amanda's school has to deal with frightened parents who think Amanda should be expelled to protect their own children. And the family finds themselves gradually but inexorably isolated: on Halloween night, no one comes knocking for trick or treat.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are many things to enjoy about this work by Alice Hoffman. She brings a balance of the magical and the scientific to bear on a well-written story. There is a nice contrast between how the family bands together to deal with a minor crisis of an uninvited wasp in the kitchen, and the devastating enormity of AIDS in the life of the family. It is a timely story, written over 10 years ago, and dealing with a new crisis at that time. Through the story she calls on all people to have a little understanding as to how "the other" may be feeling. In fact, for me, the function of the story works better than the nature of the story. The latter I find to be a bit difficult. Polly vehemently dislikes her father for running away to spend time with another woman, yet longs to be held by Dr. Reardon. Laurel's character is just a little too incredible---coming in from offstage to play too large a role in the life of Amanda, the stricken child. The children, to me, are just too mature for their stated ages. Imagine 8-year old Charlie slugging his dad, so that he can tell Amanda the good news about her gymnastic team's win. There is little resolution in the end between Polly and Dr. Reardon, between Polly and Betsy, between Charlie and Severin. I do not feel this lack of resolution is planned, for then the story would announce that chaos is the victor when a crisis with the magnitude of AIDS hits a family. I do not believe that to be the message that Alice Hoffman wants to convey. The story has to be a tale of hope, and in many ways it is.
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