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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Circle Nine
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on November 14, 2011
Holy crap!! I could NOT put this down!! This was sad, very sad; once you figure what's going on along with the main character...I was like...whoa. it was disturbing, I wanted to scream at my kindle at times, but the hooks were in me, and I couldn't let go. The ending could have used a little something more..but I still really loved this story! I'm still like...whoa. (4.5 stars)
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on June 9, 2015
I read this once before and I am still picking up new details I missed!
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 2011
When she wakes up, Abby can't remember anything. She doesn't know where she is, why there's a fire, or even what her name is. She doesn't know who Sam is, but she thinks she can trust him. After all, he was the only other person around when she woke, and he says he'll take care of her. Abby starts a new life with Sam, one filled with only nice and happy things--but one that is devoid of a past. Abby can't live in ignorance forever. She can't overlook the holes in her memory where she must have had a life before Sam. And when she begins to remember, her entire new world starts to unravel. Now Abby knows that there is something seriously wrong, with herself, with Sam, and with the entire situation she's been living in. The question becomes not whether Abby will able to break free--but whether she'll have the strength to live on her own.

Circle Nine is one of the more unusual psychological thrillers that I have read, and I mean this in a complimentary way. Heltzel writes from the perspective of protagonist Abby primarily in first person stream of consciousness with sporadic flashbacks. This gives incredible insight into Abby's fragile mind and allows the reader to plainly see all her thoughts, wants, and, most of all, confusion. I just loved how I was just as much in the dark as to the realities of Abby's situation as she was; this made the revelation of each new truth so savory to read about. What made Circle Nine really stand out to me from the other psychological thrillers that I've read is that the tone was slightly more contemplative rather than edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. There was much less urgency and action in the plot because the focus was more on Abby's inner struggles. As a result, Heltzel's crafting of Abby's character really shined in this novel, leading to a thoughtful and subtly thrilling read.

Circle Nine will be enjoyed by fans of Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. I greatly look forward to what debut author Heltzel will produce next.
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"Circle Nine" tells the story of Abby, a teenager who has no recollection of her life before Sam - a mysterious boy she met before the fire. It's obvious from the beginning that the relationship between Sam and Abby is wrong. You know that he's hiding information from her, you know that he's hiding her from the world but you're never really quite sure why. Abby sees the cave, their home, as a palace. She doesn't see the mattress full of holes at first; she sees a king's bed. She doesn't see the roaches and the filth, she only sees the beauty. She doesn't really see who Sam is, not until Amanda shows up and forces her to start questioning things.

Amanda's presence upsets Abby's world. She feels as though she's trying to steal Sam away from her. They go out late at night together, always leaving Abby behind. Then one night, Amanda and Sam get into a fight and something happens to Amanda. She knows about Abby, she wants to take her away from there - from Sam - but he isn't going to let that happen.

As Abby begins to remember her life before Sam, as she begins to remember the fire, her parents, her sister, "Circle Nine" becomes impossible to put down. This isn't an easy book to read. Both Abby and Sam, although it's easy to hate him, are frail characters. They are broken, and for a while, they manage to complete each other...until the truth comes out.

At times its hard to follow along with the story, especially in those moments when Abby's perception of reality changes so quickly: one minute she's seeing the filth of the cave, of Sam, and the next minute she's seeing the `beauty' of their world. One sentence would state the ugly and the next would state the beauty she saw. Given that Abby's still grasping reality, I understand the purpose, but it changed too suddenly and sometimes it got to be confusing.

Overall, I liked "Circle Nine". It wasn't what I was expecting, but I had trouble tearing myself away from the story. Note: Sam and Abby's relationship is an abusive one and there is drug use within the story, so it's important to note that this story won't be for everyone. If you decide to read "Circle Nine", which you should, I'd suggest setting aside a few hours of free time to read it within a single sitting. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and staying up well into the morning hours because I needed to know what happened next. It's a difficult story to take in, and the ending leaves you with something to be desired, but it's a well written novel worthy of a read.
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on January 1, 2012
Reason for Reading: The plot intrigued me.

Generally, I think this is going to be one of those books that you either love or hate. I loved it! Upon closing the book, I spoke quietly to the empty room, "Wow...that was something." and gave the book a gentle reassuring pat. This is the story of an episode in Abby's life and then is divided into the following 14 weeks and then the next 30 days. Therefore normal plot and character development is not followed which may annoy some readers. However because of the intense focus on this period in time the book's unusual development provokes deep thought in the reader and great suspense in plot.

Sixteen year old Abby wakes up. She is in pain, can smell smoke and a handsome young man is telling her to hurry up "they" will be here soon. So together they run fast and far to his glorious cave home. Here Abby realises she has no memory. She knows her name is Abby. Sam is calling her that, it sounds right and she is wearing a necklace with the name on it. She knows random bits of information, but she has no idea who she really is, where she came from, how she knows Sam, just that they love each other, or why she has nowhere else to be. Sam continuously reads to her from Dante's Inferno and calls the world outside their cave "Circle 9". It is a place that she should avoid and never go; it is a bad place and he will protect her. Abby is happy, safe and sound ... until memories start to come back. Short and small at first and with very painful headaches. Then she begins to realise that her world with Sam is distorted, not what it seems. Something is wrong, perhaps even sinister, and her reality begins to crack at the seams.

A brilliantly written novel. Incredibly suspenseful. The reader is as much in the dark as Abby and it is only through careful attention to the details that one notices that what Abby is relating is not necessarily what is real. That what Abby talks about happening to her is not so innocent as she takes it to be. The book starts with the incident, though we only see it from Abby's broken mind. Then the book is divided into two parts, written from Abbie's perspective. First, the fourteen weeks before she gets her memory back and then the thirty days after she regains her memory. A fascinating story, highly suspenseful as the truth is slowly revealed and one which creates a lot of pathos for the only two main characters in the book. I highly enjoyed this read!
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on March 4, 2012
Let's start with the good - because there's more good than bad here. CIRCLE NINE is engaging and fast-paced. You keep peeling the rind to reveal the mysterious fruit within. In this case, the mystery is not just what happened to the protagonist (Abbie), but WHO is Abbie. Her boyfriend/provider/overlord is a teen named Sam who claims to have rescued Abbie from some terrible accident that has left Abbie bereft of memories. The two dwell in a kind of subterranean hideaway where the outside world is a fearful, infernal place - a place Abbie must never venture (at least according to Sam). Sam becomes the most interesting, dynamic character in the novel. He seems like every girl's worst nightmare - the seducer who is so artful in his seduction that he drains the very essence of his target. He controls them, feeds them, and dominates them. He's Charles Manson meets Phillip Garrido. Abbie's twisted devotion/dependence on Sam is treated with the complexity and seriousness it deserves. Like all the best psychological fiction, CIRCLE NINE, makes us cringe and empathize as we explore an addled, desperate mind.

The prose is bumpy at times, but it's not enough to distract. The primary flaw in this very ably told story is the narrator, Abbie. For most of the novel, she knows nothing of her past. She knows nothing of who she is other than how she feels about Sam. This becomes a problem by the end of the novel, when Abbie is about to embark on a very uncertain voyage. I found myself not being moved or deeply troubled by the final image of Abbie. I hardly knew the girl.

Maybe we're a bit conditioned to expect big surprises in fiction (jaw dropping twists, characters showing up to their own funerals, the hatch finally getting opened on LOST), but I found the mystery of Abbie's past to be a bit obvious early in the book. As readers we like to guess the solution to the puzzle and compare our guess to the final result. By page 30, you'll have a good idea what happened to Abbie, who Sam is, and what the significance of her dreams are. A minor quibble.

Ultimately, there are far worse ways to spend a weekend than with CIRCLE NINE. It's got some grit and sharp edges, which is always welcome in Young Adult fiction. I found the final musings about homelessness to be poignant. I'm certainly going to be following the career of Anne Heltzel. While her debut is an imperfect beginning, she shows great promise.
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on February 15, 2013
This is one of those books that I literally couldn't put down. I did try. I woke up at 6am, started reading, thought, hmm maybe I'll check my email and do some work, but found myself right back on the couch reading again. I finished it in less than 3 hours. It's the kind of book where I really feel for the author, because it's one of those YA novels that's so thoughtful and though-provoking I worry it wont find an audience. It's painful to read the disjointed perspective of a girl who can't remember her past, who may or may not be crazy, who is homeless, and who is in love with a junkie boyfriend. It's not a shiny happy tale as you watch her travel from delusion to reality. But it is really such a good book. Read it.
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on September 13, 2011
For once, I am at a loss for words! I am very conflicted as to how I feel about this book.

The writing style was very strange and I do not know if it is because I have an ARC copy or if the writer really wanted it to be this way, but the conversations all took place in italics instead of quotations. I did get used to it after a while, but then all conversation when the main character was having her memories, quotations were used? It made me think that none of the conversation was said out loud, just in each others heads.

Although the writing style was different for me, it did not deter me from reading the book. I HAD to get to the end to find out about Abby's story and what exactly happened to her. The storyline was intriguing and kept my interest until the very end.

I enjoyed the character of Abby and felt her sadness many times throughout the book. She just kept searching for the truth no matter what the cost and in the end found out that the truth may have been better hidden. I was not a big fan of Sam throughout most of the book until the end and found out how he saved Abby, but, he still was not that great of a person due to the fact that he really messed with her mind.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, then you would enjoy this book. Do not let the writing style sway you, the storyline is enough to keep you reading. Although this book is classed as YA, there are sexual and drug references and I would recommend it for a mature young adult.

*Thanks to Candlewick Press for the ARC copy for this review.
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on March 18, 2012
When Abby wakes after being pulled from a burning building, she discovers that she doesn't remember anything about herself. It's Sam who saves he, who helps remind her who she is. They live in a cozy little cave away from the world and all they need is each other. But when Sam's secrets threaten Abby's happiness, she begins to ask questions. The more curious she gets, the more she slowly begins to remember details about her life before the fire. Reality and fantasy have blended together in Abby's mind, and she is forced to decide what in her life is real.

Circle Nine is a dark tale that will capture your attention from the very beginning. Abby's life is a mystery, and she clings to the things Sam tells her. Her journey is both mental and emotional as she struggles to unbury the truth in her memories and disassociate her feelings for Sam with those of safety and comfort. Sam isn't ever a character that readers can trust, but he does have his moments where he is almost likable. Abby's feelings for him also complicate his role in the story, making for some dramatic scenes. Abby's search for answers is gradual and interspersed with memories of her family, which make her eventual discovery of the truth of what happened the night of the fire tragic and emotional. Though the reader will be able to deduce what Abby struggles to learn a bit quicker than the protagonist, Heltzel's writing is measured and intense, and she has a few little twists at the very end that will keep readers hooked. Circle Nine is a heart-rending and perfectly paced novel with darker tones that provides an interesting view on some very important social issues. While the ending isn't neat and perfect, it feels right and the conclusion will haunt you.

Cover Comments: I just love this cover so much! The way the brightness of the forest stands out against the black background is very striking, and it makes you want to lean in for a closer look.
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on February 17, 2015
In "Circle Nine" by Anne Heltzel, the main character, Abby, needs to learn how to determine the difference from reality and fantasy and remember the past that she has somehow forgotten. The way that the author has decided to format her chapters, through a countdown, is very unique and pulls in the reader; the reader wants to know what will happen at the end of the countdown and what Abby is going to do with her new found information on how the world actually operates. I thoroughly enjoyed this thrilling novel and recommend it to readers who would enjoy this book would those who enjoy mystery and suspense. Avoid this book if you are one who does not like to be deceived, or to amble your way, a bit confused, until the author sheds light on the situation.
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