November 8, 2011

Engaging novel about life and death

by Alice Kuipers

Sixteen-year-old Sophie is trying to forget the London subway bombing that claimed the life of her older sister Emily. But it hasn't been easy. Sophie, filled with loss and anger, lashes out at her mother, and refuses to speak to her therapist.  It also prevents her from seeing that her friend Abi has problems of her own.

Sophie's anger is so isolating that it even distances the reader, making it difficult, at first, to sympathize with her. Her only outlet is writing in her journal (the novel is a collection of Sophie's journal entries) and her new friendship with Rosa-Leigh, who encourages her to write poetry.

Sophie slowly begins to heal when she starts seeing a new therapist and reads a poem she wrote about Emily at the memorial service. That's when the reader finally understands the emotions that Sophie had been trying so hard to repress.

Kuipers does a fairly good job of depicting Sophie's emotional turmoil, while generating sympathy for Sophie's mother, who tries unsuccessfully to reach out to her daughter. The other characters are less well-developed; it's hard to see why Sophie is attracted to Rosa-Leigh. Meanwhile, we discover that Abi suffers from an eating disorder, but the reasons are not adequately explored. However, Kuipers manages to convey enough suspense - how Emily died is not revealed until the end - to keep the reader interested. 

A worthwhile and rewarding read.

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