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Summary: This memoir begins in 1969, when Jenny is only five years old. Her mother (31) is terminally ill, and its horror greatly affects the rest of the family. Jenny takes on her mother's role, yet is sensitive and fearful, while her brother Bryan (8) responds to the disease with anger, often mistreating Jenny. As her mother's health worsens, the family decides to move to southern California, where there are better hospitals. Yet no salvation comes to young Jenny or her family; her mother dies on Bryan's tenth birthday. Ultimately, they move in with Deb, the father's girlfriend who has children of her own and is a brutal woman. Upon the sudden death of her father and being forced to work for her stepmother, she is completely lost and drowns in a world of hate, fear, and almost no comfort. When her aunt and uncle come, Jenny suddenly finds herself being rescued and offered salvation from her world of torment. Finally this one light is, temporarily, able to penetrate the solid darkness of her life. This is a personal memoir of the author written for young adults. [High interest / low readability]
Type of Reading: independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 12 and up; read yourself: 12 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: This book is a remarkably inspiring, beautifully written, and poignant memoir of a terrible childhood. The author uses lyrical language from the heart to put into words a story that is both heartbreaking and elegant and truthful. Each character in the story is intricately drawn and portrayed, with every trait and emotion painted in several dimensions. The depth of the characters adds to the emotion of the events in the story. This story allows us, truly, to appreciate what we have in our lives: our loved ones, joy, health, and contentedness.
Adult Reader Reaction: pending
Pros: The endurance, strength, courage, misery, and heart conveyed in the plot; as well as its language and characters make this novel an inspiring and delicate, yet heartbreaking contribution to the world of literature.
Borrow or Buy: Definitely borrow. This story is inspirational and its characters will remain with you for a long time.
Educational Themes: Because of the depth of the characters in the story, it is easy to extract themes for discussion and conversation: parental death, abusive family members, personal strength, perseverence, etc.
Literary Categories: Nonfiction - biography, family, middle grade, young adult