Circle the Soul Softly [NOOK Book]


An elite school. Glamorous students who have fancy cars and mansions for homes (and all the haughty attitude to go with it). This is Katie O'Connor's fabulous new life since her family's recent move to Brentwood –– a perfect opportunity for a fresh start, at least in theory.

The only time she can overlook the hostility of her classmates is when they share the stage for plays. Onstage, directed by her awesome drama teacher, Tess, she has the confidence and talent that she cannot ...

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Circle the Soul Softly

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An elite school. Glamorous students who have fancy cars and mansions for homes (and all the haughty attitude to go with it). This is Katie O'Connor's fabulous new life since her family's recent move to Brentwood –– a perfect opportunity for a fresh start, at least in theory.

The only time she can overlook the hostility of her classmates is when they share the stage for plays. Onstage, directed by her awesome drama teacher, Tess, she has the confidence and talent that she cannot seem to muster in her everyday life. And it doesn't hurt that one of Katie's fellow actors is smart and cute and interested in her. But beneath the glossy surface, there are secrets buried deep, even in Katie's own past.

Nightmares and dark memories continue to plague Katie's consciousness, and in order to deal with the present, she needs to come to terms with the past. If only she could remember it.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Katie O'Connor needs a change. After her father dies, she begins having unexplainable nightmares and blackouts. Suddenly she is unable to keep up on her social life and she withdraws from her mom and older brother. Katie gets just the chance that she desires when her widowed mother becomes engaged to a wealthy accountant and the family relocates to upscale Brentwood, California. Determined to reinvent herself, Katie enrolls in an elite prep school. Always shy and awkward, Katie finally finds life going her way: a lead in the school play, friends to hang out with, and a cute boyfriend. Then without warning her nightmares return and she is once again haunted by "the monster." Katie must discover the secret her mind is harboring before everything about her new life is ruined. This well-written page-turner is predictable at times, but overall an interesting journey of self-discovery that younger high school students will find intriguing. This novel deals with heavier topics such as sex and molestation that parents and teachers should be aware of. 2006, HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 14 up.
—Jeanna Sciarrotta
After her widowed mother becomes engaged to a millionaire and moves "Skates" and older brother, Michael, into their future stepfather's mansion, Katie O'Connor, barely fifteen, struggles to adapt to tenth grade in Brentwood, home of the super rich. Ignored by the gorgeous "theater kids," Katie nevertheless shows genuine acting talent, soon becoming the girlfriend of fellow thespian David. She and sixteen-year-old David attend many unsupervised parties featuring drinking, drugs, and sex, and even manage through skillful parent maneuvering to go away on long weekends. Katie never confesses to David that she struggles with nightmares, disabling dreams in which her father rapes her. At last, in a bedroom during an after-prom party, Katie decides to have intercourse. David is hurt and angry when, against Katie's will, her body freezes at the crucial moment. The rift, however, is cathartic: Katie confronts her mother, begins to unearth the truth about her childhood, and eventually deals with her fears. Her boyfriend returns and a wedding materializes, followed by a happy ending. Obviously contrived around the theme of parental sexual abuse, this novel distastefully panders to teenage fantasies of beauty, wealth, and freedom from adult restriction. The characters by example give readers the message that fifteen-year-olds can do anything they want as long as they can get away with it. Bound to be devoured by teenage girls who are under the thumb of less affluent parents, this book is without substance. VOYA CODES: 2Q 4P J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).2006, HarperCollins, 169p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Laura Woodruff
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Instead of the fresh start she had planned for her new life in L.A.-new stepfather, new home, new high school-10th-grader Kaitlyn O'Connor runs into hostile classmates and has difficulty adapting to a privileged lifestyle and challenging academics. The only time she feels confident is when she's onstage, and the cute boy who acts opposite her is a big bonus. Katie tries to balance the demands on her time-schoolwork, extracurricular activities, preparations for her mother's upcoming wedding, and socializing-but she finds herself becoming more and more stressed, and she has nightmares. Her relationship with David blossoms into romance, but she freezes when they agree to become intimate. Slowly Katie starts working through her dreams and eventually realizes that her deceased father had abused her as a child. What's almost as bad is the fact that initially her mother refuses to believe her. Gradually, however, Katie and her family start working together to make sense of the past. Especially in this era of increasing numbers of "blended" families, teen girls will strongly relate to the protagonist's feelings. Hurwin has created believable characters with depth and a plot that is well-paced. Strong writing sets this title above the rest.-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Katie's starting tenth grade at a ritzy private school in the new community where her mother's fiance lives. Katie, her brother Michael and her mom have survived the death of her father from cancer, but Katie feels awkward and numb until auditions for the school play. Drama allows her to free herself from shyness and her feeling of invisibility. As Katie learns about her fellow actors, she becomes increasingly sure that a particularly obnoxious girl has been abused. Merely raising the possibility pushes Katie to look into her own history and begin asking hard questions about the monster of her nightmares that seems to be leaking into the present. Essential to her discoveries is the burgeoning relationship with David, a thespian, a gentlemen and the perfect boyfriend. Realizing that she isn't having a normal experience with her first ventures into romantic arousal keeps Katie from getting sidetracked from pursuing the truth. The setting of privilege and the usual accompanying temptations of drugs and alcohol doesn't overwhelm Katie's own search and the kind people who surround and support her. A fairly graceful presentation of an ungraceful topic. (Fiction. YA)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Candidly rendered.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Candidly rendered."
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Candidly rendered.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Candidly rendered.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061880643
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/17/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,411,111
  • Age range: 14 years
  • File size: 499 KB

Meet the Author

Davida Wills Hurwin is the author of A Time for Dancing (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults) and The Farther You Run. She teaches theater at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences and lives in Southern California with her husband, Gene, and their daughter, Frazier Malone.

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Read an Excerpt

Circle the Soul Softly

By Davida Hurwin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Davida Hurwin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060775068

Chapter One

Michael takes the U-turn after the light clicks to red, screeching the tires and almost hitting some old woman in a jeep. He flips her off, leans over, and shows me his Dumb Jock face. We screech again as we almost miss the second turn. Every single person in every single car in the carpool line glares. I scrunch down in the seat and remember why I hate my brother.

"This is it?"

Michael has stopped in the middle of the street. Now everyone on the sidewalk is staring too.

"Move the car, butthead."

"Do you know how much this place costs?"

"What do you care -- you're not paying." Just breathe, Katie, breathe. Finally he moves, drives, parks. This is definitely not how I visualized my first day at a new school.

"Skates, are you sure you want to go here?"

"Do not call me 'Skates.'" I grab my schedule and get out. If it wouldn't get more stares, I'd slam the door.

"Let me walk you. I want to see the rich kids."

"Hey -- better idea -- go die somewhere, okay?"

First I run into a bench. No big deal, no one's watching. Then I go into the wrong room, with the twelfth-grade students instead of tenth. I get stuck between an Eminem look-alike and a troupe of blank-faced, black-haired maybe-females with extreme makeup.From the other side of the room, two anorexic Vogue model types check me out. The redhead whispers something and the blonde starts laughing, quietly, behind her hand. Eminem sneers down at me and nods once, like I care. I put them all on my list of those needing paper cuts. Then the blonde rolls her eyes and I smile.

I smile!

I miss the tenth-grade orientation talk completely, so I follow the crowd. I stand in line, get my picture taken, and follow another crowd down the alley to stand in line again. I'm paired with a fairly normal-looking girl who immediately assures me she thinks I'm just fine but practically every other girl in our grade is a bitch. We get our books and stand in still another line to pay for them.

I fumble for my mom's credit card and bang into the edge of a table. My plastic bags split at the seams and three million books clatter to the floor. In the nanosecond of silence that follows, someone says: "Omigod, I will never get out of here." The whole room laughs; I am publicly revealed: Attention everyone! Stupid Kate is here -- can't you see her smiling?

How I get from the book-buying place to Michael's car is not entirely clear. Of course, he's standing outside it, tall, lanky, serene, fitting right in. I hate him. The blonde and the redhead from twelfth grade drive by us in a little black BMW. They glance over and the redhead winks. He tips his head in their direction and the blonde almost smiles. I do not even exist. I hate him even more.

Here's the list:

I run into benches and walls and other random objects, I don't understand the social thing, I always think people are dissing me, and the only person I'm able to get pissed at is my brother -- but only if no one's looking.

And -- my personal favorite -- I smile. Constantly. It doesn't matter how stupid, angry, depressed, or embarrassed I am -- I still smile. The only time I actually don't smile is when I'm doing a part in a play. Oh, but wait -- that isn't real life, is it?

This morning was supposed to mark the official birth of my new identity -- the person who can cope with anything. New house, new father -- well, sort of -- new school, new girl. This one is funny and knows what to say. She has a best friend and they make plans every weekend. She gets IMed the second she goes online. She doesn't space out during daylight and has regular dreams, not scary nightmares. She never bumps into stuff and she has an extremely cool, extremely individual way of dressing. Her boyfriend? One of the cutest guys at school.

I swear she's in here.

I just don't know how to get her out.

So -- I walk. It helps me think. Or not, depending on the day. It moves me forward, anyway, especially when Stupid Kate has appeared. I don't have to talk to people, not even my mom. I just say I'm exploring my new neighborhood.

It's weird. Brentwood is one of the most expensive places in California, and it reminds me of Santa Rosa, which definitely is not. Willow trees along the streets, their branches arching almost to the center. Sunlight peeking through. Breezes painting shadow dancers on the sidewalk. I like being here. Of course, in Santa Rosa, there'd be leaves rustling now, crunching under my feet. I miss that. But in Santa Rosa, I'd also have that eerie feeling that someone was following me, and I'd stop every so often to see if I could catch the sound of them in the leaves. Here, in my new Normal and Connected Life, the leaves have been sent who knows where by loud little cleaning machines. And even with no one around -- no gardeners, pets, children, not even cars going by -- I will not have that feeling because I will not allow it.


Excerpted from Circle the Soul Softly by Davida Hurwin Copyright © 2006 by Davida Hurwin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Just Okay

    I had great expectations from this book since A Time for Dancing is one of my favorite books. This book however disappoints. It is just like the book Speak. If you want to read a great book by this author spend your time and money on A Time for Dancing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    Comfort Reading (instead of the food)

    The title of this book evokes an immediate emotional response, and readers of this story will not be disappointed. Katie O¿Conner has just moved to a new, private school and is in the process to adjusting to life in the toney neighborhood of Brentwood. Her mother is remarrying after losing Katie¿s father to cancer. This remarkable book is told poignantly in the first person. It¿s a story about relationships within the family. It¿s a story about building intimate relationships in the wake of sexual abuse. The reader is invited on a journey of self-discovery through the eyes of a young woman who doesn¿t always make healthy choices. This is one of the best young adult books I have read. This book could have curricular ties to Sociology (in terms of defining a family and social class) and Health (interpersonal relationships, sexual abuse, family). I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007

    i liked it

    this was a pretty good book. Even though i think that the author could have put so much into by slowing the story down. there was so much to say in the parts she rushed through. the things she skipped wouldve been the things that made this book great. but either than that. this is a good book. its worth your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2007

    Amazing book.

    15 year old katie o'connor is faced with moving from san franscico california wich is a surburan area up to brentwood california an extemely rich town just outside of hollywood. her whole lifestyle has changed she went from a modern house her mom was renting to and upscale mansion as she puts it. i few years before this move her father had died from cancer and now her mother was in love with a new man wich was the cause of the drastic move. katie was known for being a clutz and having only one friend back in san francisco. she was excited for this new start to remake herself, but on her very first day at her new school the popular kids had hated her, but her second day was even better she joined the drama club were she met David her new found love everything was going great for her until when her and david decided to get sexually she had started to get flashbacks of her past and panicked and pulled herself back in afraid to let ne one know of her true self. will katie confront her fears and her horrible past that she managed to keep in side for so many years? DEFFIANATLYY READ THIS BOOK! I HOPE THESES GUNNA BE LIKE A SECOND ONE TO IT!.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2006

    an eloquent telling of young girl's journey through sordid dreams and relatible teenage circumstances.

    circle the soul softly is a true elixir of the adolescent psyche. The telling of foreign surroundings and unfamiliar lifestyles becomes only a backdrop for the beautiful unfolding of a young girl's mysterious past. After beginning with the sibling banter of young Katie and her brother Michael, the pages quickly turn and you find yourself rapidly seeking the undying darkness that so haunts our heorine. I read this in one night! This novel is an excellent read for both adolescent girls and those who have well exceeded the years of lip gloss and prom dates.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2006


    I just got this book yesterday and read it in one day it was so good. I love how the chapters are really short. I also love this book because it's so real and such a great romantic story that makes you get butterflies in your stomach. Katie's boyfriend in the story seems so nice and so HOT! This is a must read for all girls or who love romantic stories and books that make you giggle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2006

    A real book for real girls

    This book has very real characters who are dealing with a, unfortunately, very real issue. This book is not only a great and contemporary read, it is also an invaluable tool for helping us all recognize the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and abuse. A very important book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2005

    A Must-Read

    Davida Wills Hurwin¿s Circle The Soul Softly is by far, one of the best young adult books to have been written in the past five years. A bit subtler than Gossip Girl and a bit more hardcore than Sloppy Firsts, it is exactly the type of book adolescent girls like reading nowadays. Hurwins is definitely looking for this to be a bestseller. This book is a must-read for teenage girls. Sex. Drugs. Death. Beer. Beginnings. Katie¿s life is abnormal in comparison to the life of many other teenagers. Not only must she learn to adjust to life in this posh LA suburb, but she must also learn how to ¿walk and talk like the rich, cool kids¿, how to deal with boys, and how to accept that another man will be her ¿Dad¿. Katie has everything every inner-city kid could ever dream of: a new life in a huge house, maids, a stepfather, a father, a mother, and an education at an expensive prep school. No problem. Right? Wrong. Although Katie finds the boy of her dreams and immediately lands a roll in the school play, she is unable to ignore other things ¿ those memories from her youth that not even she can recall. It all seems great at first. She experiments with beer, she wants to have sex with her totally gorgeous (and older) boyfriend, and she gets invited to talk-of-the-town parties. But not everything is as it seems. She loves her new life. Well, almost. Katie must re-evaluate her past, reconnect with her already dead father to find out why she is so uneasy. Why is she not able to ¿feel¿ happy with David at times? Why is there a monster in her dreams? Why does she think her father raped her? Minus the mansions, death, and the maids, Circle the Soul Softly is about a typical teenager¿s struggle with a taboo topic¿sex. Katie¿s struggle with sex is only one piece to the larger puzzle, and it doesn¿t take long before she figures it out.

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    Posted February 12, 2010

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    Posted July 10, 2011

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    Posted March 21, 2009

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    Posted April 29, 2009

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    Posted July 13, 2009

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