From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up–Sixteen-year-old Steve Nugent recounts the events that brought him to Burnstone Grove, a therapeutic facility for teens with substance abuse issues and/or suicidal tendencies. Intellectually bright, emotionally immature, and only moderately adept socially, Steve is coping with his mother's death, his older brother's suicide, his father's depression, and his own erratic behavior. With customary fluency when dredging these psychosocial swamps, Rapp creates a likable character leading an existence so grim that his crimes seem understandable. Steve has a better sense of humor than the antiheroes of Rapp's Little Chicago
(Front St., 2002) and 33 Snowfish
(Candlewick, 2003), perhaps because his life went awry a bit later than theirs. Steve is credible both as the awkward and intoxicated teen who doesn't deal appropriately with the brush off he gets from a popular girl and as the understanding friend who remains open-minded upon learning that a boy he admires is both gay and manipulative. The author explicitly describes the violence his protagonist experiences: when Steve finds his brother's body, there is an anatomically detailed description of how strangulation looks. However, while Steve's prehospitalization life clearly was spiraling out of control, he now seems to be truly on the mend, and the story's denouement finds him on the verge of reestablishing contact with his father. Rapp offers teens well-constructed peepholes into harsh circumstances, with a bit of hope tinting the view.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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*Starred Review* Gr. 10-12. Steve Nugent is a character as distinctive and disturbing as Salinger's Holden Caulfield was 50 years ago. Steve, who is writing from a Michigan facility for troubled teens, chronicles both the events leading up to his hospitalization and his interactions with fellow patients, the Blue Groupers (suicidal teens) and the Red Groupers (addicts), as a part of his counseling. Rapp effectively uses canine references (and some scatology) to illustrate Steve's loss of control as he struggles to find a place in the pack after his mother's death and his brother's suicide. Opening pages paint a horrific picture of Steve's older brother's death, but as the novel cycles through to a final coda of this same scene, shock turns to deep regret for all that Steve has lost, and readers will come away with a fervent hope that Steve's opening journal entry will come true: "By the time anyone reads this, hopefully I'll be out of this place and on to better things." Like last year's 33 Snowfish
, this is not for timid readers or those easily offended or shocked by rough language or graphic descriptions, but teens will root from their hearts and even laugh a little as Steve struggles to fight his way out from under the dog of depression that has him pinned down. Cindy DobrezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved