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Trigger Hardcover – August 22, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up–Having spent the better part of his last years of high school in a hospital and rehabilitation center, Jersey Hatch recovers from the brain damage inflicted by a gunshot to his head, by his own hand. Through a hazy series of flashbacks, memories, dreams, and scenes from the present–often coded in what will appear to many readers as haphazard gibberish–he reaches inward to uncover the lost pieces of his memory and to figure out why he might have shot himself. There's no doubt as to the ring of truth in both Jersey's character and situation, and Vaught, a neuropsychologist, understands these afflictions. The more lucid parts of her story should hook readers and help them to fully grasp and empathize with the protagonist's truly dire situation. However, Jersey's more abstract patterns of thought and mutterings are perhaps too realistic for less-determined readers, and seem to make better food for a psychological journal than a teen novel.–Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Seventeen-year-old Jersey Hatch returns home after a year in a brain-injury treatment center. Having no memory of the event, Jersey has been informed that he shot himself in the head. With no internal points of reference, he is compelled to confirm through those around him that he really pulled the trigger, and more importantly, to discover why. Plagued by numerous physical challenges, and struggling to think sequentially and to avoid inappropriate vocalization, this proves difficult. Worse yet, Jersey has returned to parents broken by his actions and to peers who despise him. Armed with a binder to record his easily scattered thoughts, and with two champions--the magnificently depicted Mama Rush and her granddaughter Leza--Jersey sets out to solve his own mystery. The interior landscape revealed through Jersey's unreliable yet sympathetic narration is dense, repetitious, and fragmented, granting readers entree into a damaged mind. Despite its somber character, the story, both engrossing and excruciating, never descends into heavy-handed messages and has nicely placed touches of humor. An original and meaningful work that provokes thought about action, consequence, redemption, and renewal. Holly Koelling
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 570L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1st edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582349207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582349206
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,658,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I started writing when I was eight, and I try to write a little bit every day even though I'm a psychologist, too. I love to hear from readers.

I especially love to hear from kids and young adults who enjoy writing and reading. I'm also happy to answer parent-questions about the content of my books--or to hear from grown-ups who like what I write, too!

I hope my book make people think, make them talk, and more than anything, let them escape into a well-told story.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on January 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Frog farts.

Santa. Shoelaces. Elana Arroyo.

All these words are a jumble in Jersey Hatch's head.


He has to remind himself to do the things that you and I take for granted, like thinking before speaking, and climbing a flight of stairs, or not constantly asking aloud if his parents' house is all right.

He didn't always have to do this. He didn't always need an aide at school, and he used to have a best friend, Todd, and decent grades and a place on the football and golf teams.

That was before he shot himself in the head.

Since the shooting, Jersey has lost all of his recent memory. He doesn't remember any of his 15th year and only recalls a portion of his 16th, the portion not spent in a coma, on a ventilator. Now, just turned 17, he is home from the hospital with three very deep scars and a thousand questions. The most frustrating question, the one neither he nor anyone else can answer, is: Why did you shoot yourself? To answer this question, Jersey will have to go through his book of memories and visit with one of the only people who never gave up on him: Mama Rush, his best friend's wise, sometimes curmudgeonly grandmother.

Mama Rush isn't going to make anything easy for Jersey, though. In order to find the answer to the question of why he shot himself, Jersey will have to make seemingly farfetched lists of possible reasons, contact people who would ridicule him, and try to communicate through the seemingly random words that infiltrate his speech. And the one person who might have the key to Jersey's discovery, his former best friend Todd, wants nothing to do with him.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Seventeen-year-old Jersey Hatch cannot remember that day in his bedroom with his father's gun, and no amount of questioning from family, friends, or therapists can change that. Why did he do it? He wishes he could answer that question, but if he cannot even remember the actual act of shooting himself in the head, how can he be expected to remember why he decided to do it in the first place? Only through a painful search for answers can Jersey discover exactly what happened and why.

The fact that he lived is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, there is the simple fact that he is alive--a blessing, technically. But after one shoots himself in the head, life cannot ever return to "normal," whatever that may have been. Not only does he have to relearn everything in his life and deal with the fact that his body will never again work as it did before he pulled the trigger, he has to repair relationships. His dad is constantly hovering over him with that fake smile and a bowl of oatmeal; his mother rarely makes a sound; his best friend, Todd, wants nothing to do with him; and the authorities at school seem to wish he was anywhere but on their campus. Can all of these problems really be fallout from his mistake? He was the one who got shot, after all, so how can so many people be so affected by a single error in his judgment? These are questions for which Jersey knows he must find answers in order to find peace.

Author Susan Vaught is a neuropsychologist who works mainly with young people with head trauma. Through her words, the reader experiences the reality of a failed suicide--the frustration of the individual, the ambivalence of his parents, the fury that erupts within the caretaker household, the curiosity of outsiders, and, ultimately, the decision that can only be made by Jersey: rebuild his life or finish the job?

Reviewed by: Mechele R. Dillard
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin on October 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book and my thirteen-year-old daughter loves it as well.
It's a positive book and a very nice read for all ages.
I've enjoyed every line of it and I am recommending it to friends.
NH is reading "Fahrenheit 541" and I was asked if I could save only one book ( not counting religious books) which would it be?
"Trigger" was the first book that came to my mind.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Robinson on July 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Trigger begins as teenager Jersey Hatch is preparing to leave rehab, a year after, so people tell him, he shot himself in the head. Jersey doesn't remember shooting himself, nor does he remember the year leading up to the shooting, but he knows that he and the people around him have been scarred by it. His father is damaged, though a solid, supportive, presence. Jersey's mother isn't coping as well. His parents' marriage is on shaky ground. Jersey's former friends haven't been to see him, and he knows that his lifelong best friend, Todd, can't stand him anymore.

The only people who treat Jersey with any degree of normalcy are Todd's younger sister, Leza, and Leza and Todd's grandmother, Mama Rush. Mama Rush and Leza both try to help Jersey figure out why he shot himself, a mystery that seems to involve Todd, and/or a former girlfriend. The suspense of Jersey's quest for understanding is mixed with scenes depicting his re-adjustment to home and school.

Jersey is physically and mentally disabled, with limited use of his left arm and leg, patchy short term memory, and difficulty controlling his words. Trigger is told in Jersey's first-person voice (as his thoughts, not as something structured that he's written down). Jersey's thought patterns are scattered, and he frequently obsesses on particular words or ideas. He can't keep from blurting out words that are on his mind, often at inappropriate times. It's a fascinating window into what it might be like for an otherwise intelligent person to learn to live with brain damage, and an utterly unique voice for a novel. Here are a couple of examples:

"Pay the driver. Pay the driver. I could do easy math. I could count change and money and stuff. If I remembered to pay the driver.
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