Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Publication Date: September 1st, 2011
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.
Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)
Where do I even start with this book review? Honestly, this is probably the most challenging book I have ever reviewed because there isn't much I can say without spoilers. Was it good? Oh yes. It was GREAT. Why? Well, that's a little more difficult to dance around, but I'll do my best...
First and foremost, this book is not at all what you expect. Honestly, there is just no way that any reader would see it's big reveal and subsequent events coming unless they were given a heads up (and I am NOT going to be the one to ruin it for you!). This book is so unique, in so many ways. I buddy read this with my 5th grade daughter, me always a couple of chapters ahead to make sure the content was okay (it's fine, by the way). There were a few big twists, but the BIG twist was epic. I had an extremely difficult time waiting the day or two that it took her to catch up to me, so I could discuss it with her; I was like a toddler waiting to see Mickey Mouse at Disney World during that time- I really, REALLY wanted to talk to someone about it. I actually sat in her room to watch her read that chapter, so I could see her mouth drop like mine did... I love books that are unpredictable. It makes my week when an author can make my jaw drop with an unexpected turn in the story. R.J. Anderson not only did this, but she left my jaw hanging like that for a solid 5 minutes (I am so glad I was not in a public place when I read it!). So, yeah, the story rocked...
I also liked this book for the writing. Often I will come across a book that has such a promising story, and the writing kills it for me; sometimes I'll love a story and it will have so-so writing, and I get sad because I know it could have been so much more if it were written by someone else. This story and it's writer were PERFECT for one another. This story could have been a confusing disaster, but R.J. Anderson managed to write it so the reader never gets lost. The main character has Synesthesia, which is a real phenomenon (google it if you want to know more), and because most people are unfamiliar with it, it could have been difficult for the reader to understand, but it really wasn't because of the writing. It's clear that R.J. Anderson did her research for this book. The pace was great as well. You know how in old stage comedy acts the person on stage is grabbed by the neck with a hook and yanked off stage? That's how I felt from the first chapter; I was pulled in and there was no fighting it, The story never lagged, but I never felt like there was information overload either. I liked the characters and how their stories unfolded, and I really liked how the backstory was filled in with flashbacks relating to the events going on in the present. The only thing I found bothersome was the abrupt ending. The buildup was so intense and then it was done. It's not that I didn't like the ending, I just felt like I wanted more...
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Grade Level Recommendation: Like I said in my review, I buddy read this with my 5th grader and thought it was fine. The protagonist is in a mental institution and the main person of interest after a breakdown following the disappearance and suspected murder of a peer. That may bother some parents/teachers, but my kid watches the news, so I knows she's heard/seen worse. It may take a more mature reader to understand some of the interpersonal relationships, but there's nothing I would consider inappropriate about this book. Ages 11 and up (5th grade+).
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