From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—Three teens tell their stories, in free verse, from a psychiatric hospital after failed suicide attempts. Their lives unfold in alternating chapters, revealing emotionally scarred family relationships. An absent father, a bipolar mother, and a secret abortion have caused Vanessa to slash her wrists. As a compulsive cutter, she hides a paper clip to dig into her skin. Tony's drug overdose was triggered by an addiction in which he exchanged sex for money. Abused as a child, he is confused about his sexuality. Connor is the son of rich, controlling parents, and he survives a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a doomed affair with a female teacher. Initially, the narrators are inwardly focused, having arrived at "level zero," the beginning of their treatment. As they become acquainted with one another, the story, told in spare verse and colorful imagery, becomes more plot-driven and filled with witty dialogue. Both boys value Vanessa's friendship and there is an inkling of competition for her affection, although she assumes that Tony is gay. During a wilderness camping trip with other patients and staff, which would graduate the trio to the final level of treatment, it becomes apparent that one of them is mentally backsliding at the thought of returning home and has stopped taking meds. The consequences are played out, leaving the others to grapple with an additional loss and a newfound appreciation for life. Mature fans of the verse format will devour this hefty problem novel.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
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“Sharp, searing free verse . . . fast, jagged, hypnotic.”
“A riveting, fast-paced story of teenage hurt and healing.”
“Readers [Laura] Flanagan, Jeremy Guskin, and Steve Coombs bring credible resonance to the respective characters.”
“Readers Laura Flanagan, Jeremy Guskin, and Steve Coombs tap into the raw, overwhelmed feelings of abused adolescents and deliver such an honest performance that it’s startling. They perform with a visceral complexity and perfect timing that are nothing short of masterful.”
--This text refers to the Audio CD
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