At Risk

At Risk

3.9 33
by Alice Hoffman

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In a novel the Village Voice calls "memorable" and "striking", Alice Hoffman vividly portrays a family shattered by tragedy when 11-year-old Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS.


In a novel the Village Voice calls "memorable" and "striking", Alice Hoffman vividly portrays a family shattered by tragedy when 11-year-old Amanda is diagnosed with AIDS.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
Deeply moving...Sensitivity and empathy...radiate from this beautiful novel.
Village Voice
Compassionate...This is a serious, honest novel.
Jim Shepard
In its simplicity and directness and restraint there is very often a compelling power' to this novel... —The New York Times Book Review
I have rarely encountered a work that has moved me as strongly... extraordinary.
Deeply impressive...powerful.
Miami Herald
Within pages, the reader falls in love with this very real little girl... Moving, dramatic and painfully human.
Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With this moving novel, Hoffman has written a story about a family attacked by tragedy, and has given it a larger relevance by confronting one of the most frightening issues of our times. The Farrells are a middle-class family living in a small New England town. Ivan Farrell is an astronomer, wife Polly a photographer, eight-year-old Charlie a budding biologist and 11-year-old Amanda a talented gymnast. Hoffman has few rivals in depicting domestic scenes: the bickering between siblings, the tension between spouses, and withal, the humor and love that holds families together. Suddenly the Farrells are singled out for grief. Amanda, who has been winning gymnastic meets despite a summer-long malaise, tests positive for AIDS, contracted some five years before when she was transfused with contaminated blood after an appendectomy. In unsensationalized detail, Hoffman depicts the effects of her illness. Too stunned, angry and anguished even to turn to each other, Polly and Ivan retreat into separate worlds. Charlie is abandoned by his best friend and shunned by his schoolmates. Amanda, an average adolescent who loves Madonna records, must come to grips with the process of dying. The hysterical reaction of some members of the community is a further blow. Hoffman's sensitive handling of this material is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Ivan's friendship with a man he meets through the AIDS hotline, Polly's search for comfort with Amanda's pediatrician, Charlie's stoic bewilderment, Amanda's bond with a young woman who is a medium (the only evidence in this novel of Hoffman's characteristic feeling for the supernatural) are all beautifully portrayed.
Library Journal
Hoffman's newest work is heart-wrenching. Star gymnast on her school team, 11-year-old Amanda yearns toward adolescence. When her illness is diagnosed (she'd had a blood transfusion for an appendectomy), her photographer mother Polly, astronomer father Ivan, and 8-year-old brother Charlie experience the expected disbelief, anger, and sorrow. However, because Amanda has AIDS they also experience rejection by old friends and trouble at school. As Amanda's life dwindles away, the family struggles, begins to dissolve, but finally reconnects. First-rate ``contemporary issue'' fiction that will leave few dry eyes. -- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Graceful...emotionally potent...A cathartic tale that begs us, with heartbreaking eloquence, to stop looking the other way.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.70(d)
940L (what's this?)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Joseph Heller
An affecting novel of exquisite delicacy, with humor, warmth, and sensitivity. Miss Hoffman heals wounds with the gentle touch of an angel.

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of fifteen novels: Blue Diary (2001), The River King (2000), Local Girls (1999), Here On Earth (1997), Practical Magic (1995), Second Nature (1994), Turtle Moon (1992), Seventh Heaven (1990), At Risk (1988), Illumination Night (1987), Fortune’s Daughter (1985), White Horses (1982), Angel Landing (1980), The Drowning Season (1979), and Property Of (1977). She is also the author of three children’s books: Aquamarine (2001), Horsefly (2000), and Fireflies (1997).

Born in New York City, and raised on Long Island, Hoffman graduated from Adelphi University and received an M.A. from Stanford University, where she was Mirrielees Fellow. She currently lives near Boston with her family and her dogs.

Brief Biography

Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
March 16, 1952
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

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At Risk 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman took a simple tragedy, but made it unique with complex details and great characters. The story itself was believable because of descriptions used to paint the story¿s image in the reader¿s mind. An example is when Hoffman described Laurel Smith¿s séances, which really showed her working environment and played up her image throughout the book, like how she was thirty but had long, braided hair. I liked how At Risk showed the emotional side of having AIDS and was not just like reading a medical textbook or informative article. At the same time, however, Hoffman showed her knowledge of the disease by presenting factual information when Amanda was diagnosed near the beginning of the story. I also liked how even though the story was about Amanda¿s illness, it did not just focus on her alone. There was this main plot of whether she would live or not and her life with AIDS, but there was also many smaller, complex plots throughout the story. Examples of this include Ivan¿s struggle to communicate with his wife and his companionship with Brian, Polly cheating on Ivan and feeling alone in the world, Linda Gleason figuring out what she wants in life and how to handle the situation at school, and Charlie not understanding how to treat his sister or what to do with Sevrin. The ending, however, was slightly disappointing, because it was succinct and left me with many questions. Did Linda Gleason quit her job or stay at the school? How did all the students and previously hateful parents towards Amanda react when she died? Did Amanda even die when she was taken to the hospital at the end? There were also a few parts that were too cliché, but overall it was a good and easy read that I liked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Before I read the novel ¿At Risk¿ I didn¿t fully understand how much AIDS could affect a family and all the people surrounding that family. The novel allowed me to fully comprehend what AIDS can do to a person and how the virus can tear apart a family and the people surrounding that family. Although I was not looking forward to reading ¿AT Risk¿, I enjoyed the novel a lot and found it to be very interesting. I found it very interesting how Amanda¿s friend, Jennifer, was one of the two friends that stucked to her side and helped her through her illness. Throughout the novel Amanda becomes friends with Laurel Smith who is know as the ¿town witch¿. AS Amanda becomes friends with Laurel they start to hang out a lot and Laurel becomes Amanda¿s new best friend. I believe that Laurel helps Amanda fight through her illness even more than Dr. Readren does or her mom. I didn¿t like how the novel ended without you knowing what happened to Amanda, or what happens between Amanda¿s mom and Dr. Ed, or if the principal gets fired from her job. I don¿t like how you have to ¿finish the ending¿. I wish that the author had finished off the story and explained what happened between everyone. I found this book to be very interesting and very informing. I wouldn¿t have said this three weeks ago but now I would definitely say it I would defiantly read this book on my free time. If you have the chance you should defiantly read this informing novel about a worldwide illness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the story, but felt the ending was rushed in the last 10 pages and it ended abruptly. My first book by this author, so I'm unsure if this is typical of her style.
AnnieLiz More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and respectfully honest, this is the story of a tween who is diagnosed by AIDS back when AIDS was uncommon and quite fearsome for the average person. The ripple effect the diagnosis has on the family and the community in which they live is heartbreaking. It was captivating to me to see how each family member dealt with the news. And it was riveting to see how different friends and other community members deal with the situation. The harshness from the community in general is breathtaking and spot on for the time period. Another great novel from Alice Hoffman that I highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is so touching!!!!!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed 'At Risk' because it was so interesting you could not let the book leave your hands. Amanda and the way she is portayed as an 11 year old girl with AIDS made it easier to understand how people who get or have AIDS have to deal with the disease. I totally recommend this book for average readers. I learned alot from the text and was intrigued.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At Risk by Alice Hoffman is a great book in my eyes. I could really feel what the family was going through because there is someone in my family who is sick like Amanda. The person does not have AIDS, but a disease that does not have a cure. The book was so powerful in how the family felt which is just like how I feel along with my family. This book also showed me how AIDS is not just as `gay¿ disease, but how people can get AIDS by many other means other than sex. It shows that sometimes, AIDS is caused by a accident on the doctor¿s side. I also liked how there was so much fact about AIDS and viruses in general. I learned more about viruses from this book than my textbook. My favorite part about this book is the ending, or how there is not an ending. I like it how Alice Hoffman left the ending open to what ever we wanted it to be, sad or happy. Also, in general, Hoffman¿s writing is outstanding. Like I said, I could really feel the certain people¿s emotions in the book about how the disease of a little girl affected them so much and how they lived also. I recommend At Risk to anyone who needs a good book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hoffman shows the struggles of this young girl and how she learns to face her problems. Its an amazing book. Even though they were made up characters it felt like I new each one of the characters. I only wish that I could have the strenght that Amanda had.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about an eleven-year-old girl named Amanda. She has contracted AIDS from a blood transfussion that she received before blood began to be tested. This is a very beautiful story about a family strugling to keep their family together and fighting to prolong Amanda's life. Alice Hoffman did an amazing job giving each character exceptional characteristics. I really enjoyed this book and I hope you will too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow, many words can't place of meaning on the drama and different conflicts that inflict this family.She hits the reality of life in many ways- how sometimes things happen that we just can help. Also, late departures draw early attractions. Alice once again has written not a only a great book, but a piece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books. I read it a couple of years ago and have not stoped thinking about it. I have remembered so much from this book that I can't even remember about books that I have just read. I am also a gymnast and I can imagine how scary that would be. I could never go through something as scary as having AIDS as a child. I have and will keep recomending this book! It is great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman's 'At Risk' is a very powerful and influencing novel. An ordinary family of four whose lives are what today we would call 'normal' are violently changed. Polly and Ivan's eleven year old daughter who has a bright future ahead of her as a gymnast is infected with the AIDS virus. Several lives are torn appart by Amanda's sickness. Not only is this dissapointing for Amanda living her life knowing that she is going to die sooner than expected, but it is also dissapointing to her family. Parents in Amanda's school removed their children from attending the same school as Amanda so they would not contract AIDS. Polly grew to hate people who would not come in contact with Amanda or any member of the Farell family because of Amanda's illness. I think Charlie is affected the most by Amanda's illness because he has no one to turn to. The only person he has to turn to, his best friend Servin, is no longer allowed in contact with Charlie because his mother is affraid Servin will contact AIDS. Charlie has to learn to deal with the other kids in school ignoring him and having to spend more time with his grandparents. I feel in this novel, Charlie becomes independent. I think a very important part of this novel is the style of writing Alice Hoffman uses when she wrote this book. The point of view she uses when she writes this book makes it much easier to follow. Alice writes in third person narrative which allows the story to flow more smoothly. The narrator tells the reader every detail about every person in the story so that it isn't possible for the reader to get lost. I would say that Alice Hoffman's 'At Risk' is a book that everyone throughout all ages should read. It is a definate thing to put on your 'Things to do list'.