From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—In this follow-up to Returnable Girl
(Marshall Cavendish, 2006), two sisters are in a car accident while on their way home from a party. The younger girl, Nellie, suffers a traumatic brain injury while Claire, 16, is physically unharmed, but far from fine. Having been jealous of her sister's talent as a gymnast, she now feels that the accident was entirely her fault. The story is told from the perspective of Claire, her friend Sid, her friend and romantic interest Adam, and Nellie's brain, which is imagined to have a consciousness of its own. These characters have their own problems (though the brain remains resolutely cheerful), and the multiple voices sometimes crowd the narrative. Sid is living with her grandmother and pining for her older boyfriend, a soldier in Iraq. Adam, or "Fish," is a social misfit still coming to terms with his own family tragedy. And the brain chirpily explains why Nellie has to relearn how to use a knife and fork and can't remember basic words. Though the number of life lessons gives the novel a message-laden tone, the straightforward writing and quick pace make it a good choice for reluctant readers. Heavy drinking and plenty of sexual references are included.—Eliza Langhans, Hatfield Public Library, MA
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Top-level gymnastics and the teenage years come across as comparably challenging and perilous in Lowell’s second YA novel. After a confusing prologue that introduces a gymnast sister but doesn’t make clear which one, the book offers up a compelling picture of high-school kids in a coastal Rhode Island town. Told in short chapters from different points of view, the story focuses on two sisters, Claire and Nellie, and the fallout from a terrible car accident related to underage drinking. In a nice twist, one of the viewpoints is that of “Nellie’s brain,” who narrates from the comatose state and as Nellie relearns motor skills, communication, and self-control. A clinical social worker, Lowell nicely captures the way teens talk, think, and contend with multiple pressures. Her dialogue can get didactic—“change doesn’t have to be bad, though. Maybe the trick is having faith that some good will come out of it”—but the main characters prove very appealing and the story’s moral clarity may actually help young readers make better decisions. Grades 7-12. --Abby Nolan