4.3 40
by Jessica Warman

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When Katie Kitrell is shipped off to boarding school, it doesn't take her long to become part of the It Crowd. She's smart, she's cute, and she's a swimming prodigy. What her new friends, roommate, and boyfriend don't know is that Katie has kept a secret about her past--that her schizophrenic older brother, Will, is quickly descending deeper into insanity. As her

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When Katie Kitrell is shipped off to boarding school, it doesn't take her long to become part of the It Crowd. She's smart, she's cute, and she's a swimming prodigy. What her new friends, roommate, and boyfriend don't know is that Katie has kept a secret about her past--that her schizophrenic older brother, Will, is quickly descending deeper into insanity. As her lie constantly threatens to reveal itself, it's all Katie can do to keep her head above water.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Katie Kittrell loves to swim. It is the only thing she likes to do. In the water she feels free from the pressures of distant parents, school cliques, and a schizophrenic brother. When her parents send her to boarding school, she lies about her brother then spends the next three years trying to fit in with the popular group and hoping that no one finds out. The only person who knows her secret is her roommate Mazzie, a girl with her own set of demons. When Katie's brother commits a horrible act, her secret comes out shocking everyone, including her ultra religious boyfriend. There are parts to this book that are beautifully written. The scenes between Katie and her brother and Katie and her roommate are intimate and so real that if feels like eavesdropping. Other parts of the book, however, read like a typical teenage novel: flat and predictable. Katie's boyfriend is an example of this. With scenes of drugs, sex and violence commonplace, this book is high school and up only. In parts wonderful and in parts typical, this novel is a mixed bag. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Katie, 15, is most herself when she is in the water, swimming faster and better all the time. Things were so much simpler when the Kitrells were poor—her family seemed closer. Now that they are financially comfortable, their relationships have deteriorated. Katie's parents become more and more wrapped up in one another, and Katie feels excluded. She is still close to her older brother, Will, who is schizophrenic, and when his behavior becomes more erratic and extreme, she becomes concerned and frightened. Their father, now successful in his psychiatric practice, seems unable to maintain any warm relationships with his children, and sends Katie away to boarding school. There she is accepted by the most popular girls and attracts the attention of gorgeous Drew, captain of the swim team. Katie is also intrigued by her strangely withdrawn roommate and works on building her trust. Eventually, too much drinking, smoking, and worrying about her family take their toll on her swimming performance. When her brother's illness spirals out of control again, Katie faces serious personal losses and challenges that have no simple solutions. Warman treats Will's schizophrenia with stark honesty as seen through his sister's eyes. Similar to Jessica Lee Anderson's Border Crossing (Milkweed, 2009), this novel provides an important look at an extremely difficult illness and its effects on a family.—Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Kirkus Reviews
Katie Kitrell, ambivalent toward her ever-absent psychiatrist father and alcoholic, artist mother, has a fierce bond with her older brother, Will, even after a drug-induced schizophrenia takes over his personality. When his escalating violence threatens the family, their parents whisk competitive swimmer Katie from their small, blue-collar Pennsylvania town (which she blames for Will's downfall) to a boarding school. Although she finds instant popularity and intellectual stimulation, the setting only leads to new problems: how to pretend her brother is dead; a hypocritical, fundamentalist boyfriend; backstabbing cliques; a roommate with family secrets of her own; questioning her own sexuality and worth. The only place Katie can breathe easily in this debut, semi-autobiographical novel is the swimming pool. As she defines her friendships and her love-hate relationships with Will and herself, she begins to feel more at ease on land, too. Warman draws out Katie's emotions and her complex life and family with immediacy. Readers who dive in will surface with more awareness of the devastating effects of mental illness. (Fiction. YA)
starred review Booklist
*Starred Review* Says 15-year-old Katie, "The only thing I really love is swimming. Sometimes I feel like I don't really exist outside of the water." When her parents send her to boarding school after her schizophrenic brother, Will, attempts suicide, Katie loves the escape that Woodsdale offers from her family: institutionalized and increasingly violent Will; her emotionally distant dad; and her alcoholic mom. She also loves the intensity of the school's swim team, with its motto that "practice isn't over until someone pukes," and she begins a tender relationship with a gorgeous fellow swimmer, Drew, a devout Christian who, unlike most of their classmates, is still a virgin. After a misunderstanding leads to a lie, Katie tells her new friends that Will is dead. Only Katie's roommate, Mazzie, knows the truth, and that shared secret begins the deep friendship at the core of this heartbreaking debut. Stretched over three years, the episodic novel, narrated in Katie's raw voice, meanders occasionally in its focus. But Warman's achingly realistic scenes and characters transcend cliché, and with rare, refreshing honesty and flashes of wry humor, she writes about the intimacy of boarding school, the anguish of family illness, finding a sense of self in sports and in life, and the small, mysterious, imperfect moments that add up to love in all its forms.
starred review The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
*Starred Review* Though there's plenty of weight in the plot, this isn't a book about events so much as human dynamics, and characterization is vivid and exquisite. Katie is achingly real, and her relationship with her ferocious, guarded, and superbly faithful roommate, Mazzie, is one of the most tender and intimate platonic friendships in YA lit….Since readers make the journey with Katie, they'll sympathize with her choices and failures, and they'll be glad to see, in the closing epilogue from ten years on, that she learns to find her own stability while remaining connected to Will. Along the way to that hard-fought end, they'll find the boarding-school experience enviable, the family situation poignant, and Katie a protagonist they'll understand, support, and forgive.

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Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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