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Trigger Hardcover – August 22, 2006
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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.
*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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I'm not really technical with books but I just want a story that pulls me in. With this book, I felt everything Jersey felt and I cried along with him and probably some more. I wanted to know why someone who had it all, wanted none of it.
I never forgot this book and after all this time, I finally got a physical copy. When I read it again, I felt the same way all over again. I actually forgot how it ended though so it made me excited again and I finished it in a couple hours. Definitely going to look up more of Susan Vaught's books.
Because Jersey is the one narrating the story, the reader only knows what Jersey knows as he figures it out. In the first couple of chapters, the reader learns the details of Jersey's situation. As Jersey returns home from Carter with his parents, he shares numerous details about his new life. The reader learns that he must keep a memory book with him so that he can write down ideas that he does not want to forget, that he doesn't remember the year before his injury and almost a complete year after. As a result of his brain injury, he has lost motor function in his left leg and arm as well as his eyesight on the right side. In addition to the physical effects, he also seems to have no filter in his brain and he cannot help but say words that pop into his head - over and over again. This repetition sometimes makes his conversations hard to follow.
The reader begins to feel sorry for Jersey because of all these hardships; however, as the car approaches his home, the reader learns a shocking fact: Jersey Hatch took his father's gun and shot himself in the head. The big mystery - he has no idea why.
Inside the house, the reader learns even more about the situation. Before, Jersey was on the football team, the golf team, an in ROTC. He had a best friend, wanted to be a lawyer, and got straight A's. Now, his best friend Todd hates him, his old friends are ignoring him, and his parents are acting strange. The only two people who seem to accept the new Jersey are Leza, Todd's younger sister, and Mama Rush, Todd's grandmother. As the novel continues, these two seem to be his only functional support.
Vaught has written an extremely poignant novel. Throughout the entire novel, the reader is inside the head of a young man who decided to take his own life and is now attempting to rebuild it. It is a novel that attempts to address the question of why anyone would decide to commit suicide and if there are any reasons that would bring closure for surviving loved ones? It is also a novel about moving forward after tragedy - how does one rebuild relationships, trust, and self after something so horrific? There are times the reader will want to comfort Jersey and there are times when she will want to shake him and ask "why did you put your family and friends through this? Did you mean to be so selfish?" This entire novel is intense: the emotions are intense, the ideas are intense, and the descriptions are extremely vivid.
I must admit that while I understood Jersey's mother was scarred from what he'd done, I found that I understood & empathized with her the least. I kept wanting more explanation from her to get a better handle on her but in the end, I just had to accept that it wasn't coming & be content with that. I did think Jersey's father was portrayed very well & I found that I only found one thing that he didn't do highly questionable but the way the story proceeds was entirely necessary. It was frustrating that often Jersey would ask a question about Before & the reaction he received from others was basically, "Really? How can you even ask that?" Many times, I just wanted to scream "Why doesn't anyone just tell him what he did or how he was already?! Don't you know he doesn't remember?!" I get that he had to work it out & that was the point of his journey but I honestly felt like someone would have just told him. I suppose the case could be made that all those he asked had their own fallout from his attempt so they were of course, dealing with their own feelings as well. I also felt desperately that his family should have had a nearer therapy date than six months out from his rehab hospital discharge. That struck me as woefully inadequate given the situation. I hope that isn't true to life & was just done to maintain the story structure of Jersey & his family working out some important things.
I won't give up the major plot points but suffice it to say, it's a page turner to the very end. There isn't a neat tie up of happy endings for each story thread but it is hopeful & believable.
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