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Gem & Dixie Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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“Packed with Zarr’s sharp-eyed, honest observations of human nature, GEM & DIXIE gives us two sisters crushed by the failures of their parents, and asks how bad things need to get before you have to make a change. A road-trip like you’ve never been on before.” (Laura Ruby, author of National Book Award finalist and Michael L. Printz Award winner BONE GAP)
“This may be the most powerful sibling story I’ve ever read. Gem and Dixie’s road trip is heartbreaking and honest and beautifully rendered by one of my all-time favorite writers. This is Sara Zarr at her absolute best.” (Matt de la Peña, Newbery Medal winning author of WE WERE HERE)
“GEM & DIXIE is a beautiful, poignant, and ultimately hopeful story from one of the finest YA authors writing today. An exploration of the complicated love and loyalty between sisters that is at once profoundly moving and unflinchingly real.” (Nova Ren Suma, New York Times bestselling author of THE WALLS AROUND US)
“A story that broke my heart and put it back together again. You won’t want to let Gem and Dixie go.” (Sarah Dessen, New York Times-bestselling author of SAINT ANYTHING)
“With a vivid, well-rounded cast of characters, including the adults, and a poignant portrayal of family dynamics, Zarr’s frank, resonant story is both bittersweet and triumphant.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Zarr movingly explores the effects of neglect on two vulnerable girls relearning how to trust. Readers’ hearts will ache for Gem, who so desperately wants to follow a different path than her parents, as she tries to carve out a better life for herself and her sister.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
About the Author
Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, and co-author with Tara Altebrando of Roomies. She's a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her novels have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library and have been translated into many languages. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. Sara lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and online at www.sarazarr.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Gem & Dixie is a wonderful book about the power of sisterhood and what it means to take care of those who are closest to you, even if that isn't always the easiest thing in the world.
Gem has been taking care of Dixie for as long as she can remember - her parents have never been there for them, and in fact, they split up years ago, leaving their mother to care for them, although she doesn't do a very good job of it. Gem has always looked out for her younger sister, taking care of her, feeding her, making sure she does well in school - while their father is out there somewhere chasing his dreams and their mother struggles with jobs, drinking, and drug use.
"She used to need me to take care of her, and I liked doing it. I liked doing it because, then, I thought I was the one who could. Even though nobody was taking care of me."
It's been hard for the both of them, especially as they grew up and Gem found herself alone - while her mother was sometimes coherent enough to take care of Dixie and befriend her, and Dixie has even recently gotten a letter from their father, while Gem seems to be ignored more often than not. Even at school, Dixie is the pretty one with friends, while Gem tends to be more of a loner, borrowing money for lunch so she can eat, because there isn't any food at home for them.
One day, when their father comes back, he buys them groceries and tries to give their mother money to help take care of them, but she won't take it - and she even throws all of the food away, even though she can't afford to buy them any more. Before their mother kicks him out of the apartment, he hides a bag full of money under their bed - more money than either of them have ever seen before. Trying not to think about where the money might have come from, Gem forms a plan - what if they were take that money and leave? Surely they could make a better life for themselves. Gem and Dixie check into a fancy hotel and try to figure out how they can make their plan work.
"I wondered if she'd ever forgive me for this whole mess. Everything that happened, it was only because we wanted our parents to be better, to know how to take care of us. We could at least try to forgive ourselves for wanting that."
When things don't go as planned, and their father becomes frantic wanting to know where the money has gone, Gem and Dixie are faced with either carrying out their plan or going home to face what they already know - disappointment, struggle, and a lonely world where their parents seem to forget that they exist.
I've read a ton of books about kids and teens who have struggles at home, and not too many of them have stood out to me the way that Gem & Dixie has. It's the first book that I've picked up by Sara Zarr, and it won't be my last - that's for sure! As an author, Ms. Zarr has plenty of talent and knows how to draw in readers, making the book one to get lost in and remember.
This hauntingly emotional novel is told from Gem's point of view, and gives readers a glimpse into their lives as they struggle for the simplest things, such as finding money to buy food for lunch. There are several flashbacks from when they were small kids, and some from before their dad left them - back when they felt there might still be some potential for them to be a happy family. Reading about the struggles of Gem and her sister is really difficult because it makes you realize that there are a lot of kids out there who are actually struggling in this way.
Watching a parent struggle with drug and alcohol abuse is never easy, especially when they are the only parent and they have children who rely on them for care and the fulfillment of basic needs, such as food and a place to stay. Gem and Dixie's mom struggles from addiction, and as the story progresses, she even starts to ask Dixie to get her drugs from people in her school. The ugly reality of this is that it really is an issue for some kids to have to deal with these sorts of things on their own, and then when you throw an addicted parent into the mix, it becomes even more heart wrenching.
And that's exactly what this book was, in so many ways - heart wrenching. Reading this tore me apart inside, but at the same time, the bond that Gem and Dixie shared from years of only having each other was the kind of bond that can mend a broken heart. I'm not going to lie - Dixie could be mean as anything to Gem, but deep down, you could tell that she really loved her older sister. Gem, on the other hand, tried her hardest to care for Dixie since the two of them were young children, and even as teenagers she does nothing but look out for Dixie to make sure she is well taken care of.
If you're looking for an emotional read with the beauty of sisterhood, this is a really great one to pick up. The characters are full of personality (and sass, in Dixie's case), and it portrays a situation that a lot of kids have to face, making it really hit close to home.
Note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
“Everything that happened. It was only because we wanted our parents to be better, to know how to take care of us.”
This was a contemporary story about two sisters, and their less-than-perfect home life.
Gem was an okay character, and I felt quite sorry for her when she was hungry and had no food to eat and no money to buy food with. I did find her plans a little lacking at times though, and it seemed a little foolish to splash out on doughnuts when she could have made the money last her longer.
The storyline in this was about Gem and her sister Dixie, and their life with their mother who wasn’t very reliable. We had their father turn up unexpectedly, and try to insert himself back into their lives, and a big bag of cash that he brought with him which we never really got an answer as to where it came from. I expected this book to be more about the relationship between Gem and Dixie though, and they didn’t really support each other that much at all. In fact, Dixie was actually quite unpleasant towards Gem at times, and poor Gem got the short end of the stick time and time again.
The ending to this was okay, although again it wasn’t what I was expecting. I also thought there would be more repercussions about the money as well.
6.5 out of 10
Gem & Dixie had such promise, but the book never really materialized into something meaningful. The story felt rushed, especially as it neared the ending, and the character development was almost nonexistent. With the environment in which the sisters were raised being so dysfunctional, it was not that the author had an absence of material with which to work. The ending wrapped up too neatly and the sisterly bond, which was expressed throughout the book, seemed to be forgotten toward the ending. I have been a big fan of Sara Zarr, but Gem & Dixie does not come close to measuring up to the previous novels.