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Hand Me Down: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 336 pages
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Editorial Reviews


“Here’s a mother every reader will love to hate. . . . A sad, compelling read.”

“Melanie Thorne's debut novel is raw with emotion as she describes Liz's often futile efforts to protect her sister and herself from the predator their mother has invited into their lives. It is often hard to remember that this is, in fact, a novel and not a memoir… Thorne's novel is an eye-opener… she leaves the reader haunted by a nagging question: What happens to the children who are not so lucky?”
-M. L. Johnson, Associated Press

“Difficult to read, but impossible to put down—this is perhaps the best way to describe Melanie Thorne’s debut, Hand Me Down. Like Janet Finch’s 1999 bestseller White Oleander, this is a raw and all too realistic story about a California teen forced to move from house to house—and often from bad situation to worse—after her well-intentioned but self-centered mother makes a life-changing choice.”

"First-time author Thorne wears her heart on her sleeve in this semi-autobiographical tale about a 14-year-old who juggles equal amounts of hope and despair in her chaotic daily life… Liz continues to narrate her journey with prose that vibrates with intelligence and passion… Liz is a wise, wry, wonderful heroine.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Thorne writes convincingly from an adolescent’s perspective, admitting to having mined her own experiences. The family is believably and sadly dysfunctional, and readers will empathize with each character through their highs and lows....This is an intriguing first outing by a talented new writer.”
-Publishers Weekly

"Hand Me Down is a compelling, intelligently contemporized version of a traditional coming-of-age story full of family betrayals old and new."
-Pam Houston, bestselling author of Cowboys are My Weakness

"The novel is sad, strong, evocative as hell, and all together terrific. Liz emerges as quite a likeable and unlikely hero."
-John Lescroart, bestselling author of Damage

"The prose here is sharp, fresh, deeply felt, and grimly funny.”
-Clifford Chase, author of <I>Winkie</I>

“Thorne deals sensitively with a difficult topic, and the novel's adolescent perspective is sure to find popularity with YA audiences.”
Library Journal

About the Author

Melanie Thorne earned her MA in creative writing from the University of California, Davis, where she was awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship and the Maurice Prize in Fiction. She lives in northern California.

Product Details

  • File Size: 464 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005GSYYD0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,276 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Melanie Thorne is the author of Hand Me Down, a debut novel named a Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2012 and nominated for a 2013 YALSA Alex Award. Melanie earned her MA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Davis, and she has been awarded the Alva Englund Fellowship, the Maurice Prize in fiction, and a residency at the Hedgebrook Writers' Retreat. Her work has appeared in various journals. Her hobbies include reading, writing, watching smart TV, crafting, swimming, gardening, and traveling, especially to warm, pretty places. She lives in Northern California with her fiance, almost as far west as they could go.

Learn more about Melanie and Hand Me Down at or connect with her on Twitter @mthorneauthor.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jaime H. on April 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Where do you go when you lose the only place you call home? Elizabeth Reid is faced with answering just that. At fourteen-years-old, she is told she is no longer allowed to live with her mother, whose sex-offending husband has just been released from prison. While Liz's younger sister, Jaime, decides to go live with their father, Liz refuses to go back into the house of the man who abused her mother. Given her lack of options, she moves around to whatever friends and family will let her in. However, Liz learns too quickly and harshly that appreciating the hospitality of others is no replacement for the place one calls home- regardless of the troubles within that home.

Although Liz is only fourteen, her voice comes across much older and wiser, which is understandable given everything with which she has had to deal. As Liz struggles with trying to protect her sister from the things which haunt her, she also realizes that she must let Jaime learn on her own. However, having been placed in the role of protector, Liz often puts herself in dangerous situations in order to keep the harsh realities away from her sister. She also spends a great deal of time coming to terms with the position her mother placed the girls in when they were younger, as she repeats similar behaviors again.

Hand Me Down is by far one of the most poignant and honest looks into the effects of abuse on a family. While Liz's mother was strong enough to escape the girls' father, she finds herself repeating many of the same behaviors with her new husband. The excuses, rationalization, and hiding from the situations at hand place her daughters in harm's way once more. This is a story about the difficulties of breaking the cycles of abuse, and finding a way out.
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Format: Hardcover
Although Thorne's novel doesn't have the psychological layers of Dorothy Allison's seminal novel of a similar topic, her efforts at portraying a fourteen-year-old girl with no safe home is refreshingly honest and brave, much like her protagonist, Elizabeth Reid. Such young voices are too seldom heard in the dark territory between careless parents and an overburdened social services bureaucracy. Unfortunately, their tales are all too common, young people left to fend for themselves when the adults in charge have forfeited responsibility in favor of self-interest. When Elizabeth's mother, Linda, finally breaks free of a violent alcoholic husband, Liz, fourteen, and younger sister Jaime have too short a respite before Linda becomes involved with an ex-con she meets through their church outreach program. Out of choice or habit, Linda turns a blind eye to Liz's discomfort and Terrance's increasingly aggressive behavior, even with his history of incarceration. Marriage to Terrence follows Linda's unexpected pregnancy, as Liz is forced to find another home when the court decrees she cannot live under the same roof as a convicted sex offender.

Brokenhearted at her mother's betrayal, but still clinging to hope, Liz begins the nightmare of not belonging anywhere, moving from a few her father's girlfriend's trailer (where Jaime has chosen to move) to a paternal aunt in northern California whose born-again family adheres to a strict regimen of righteous living and to the temporary security of her favorite aunt's home in Salt Lake City. There are nights on friends of friend's couches, a short stay with Terence's brother and his wife, a never-ending series of temporary spaces, her duffle bag always packed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LadyDvm on February 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I found it a realistic look into a typical but disfunctional family. I felt like I personally knew the characters. It describes how easy it is to "find" the wrong partner and endanger your children. I couldn't put it down until I finished it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chrystal on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
An interesting debut novel, indicative of a semi-autobiographical story - Melanie Thorne's Hand Me Down is the author's descent into fiction. This unforgettable novel depicts the intimacy of a narrative memoir of a 14-year old girl struggling to deal with the chaos of an emotionally destructive life.

Elizabeth and her younger sister, Jamie realize early on that they don't have anyone to depend on as they try to cope with the knowledge their parents are not only incapable of caring for them, but have little or no desire to do so. After their mother, Linda chooses a man over them, she displays an incredible degree of indifference toward her daughters and their well being. What is even more disturbing, Linda didn't toss her daughters aside for just any man, no, she sagged a real prize when she married, Terrance a convicted sex offender. Terrance is the kind of man who takes pleasure in tormenting Liz each time he brushes against her, breathes on her, licks his lips as he speaks inappropriately to her and prances around half-dressed, knowing Liz will remain silent because he's already threaten to approach young Jamie with the same attention, if Liz doesn't keep quite. After the girl's alcoholic father who faithfully beat Linda during their marriage, notifies the parole office that Terrance is in violation of his parole by living in the house with the girls; Liz thinks she, Jamie and their mother can get back to life before Terrance and perhaps enjoy their childhood in a normal environment. Instead, loving mom, chooses the sex offender over her own offspring. While Jamie is sent to live in a trailer park with her dad, Liz is shipped off to Terrance's brother, Gary, and his wife.
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