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by Norma Fox Mazer

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Mom held me around the waist, and I bent and kissed her. "I love you, honey," she said. "Love you, too." It was automatic. That's what I can't forget.

When a heart attack takes her mom's life, Sarabeth suddenly loses the only family and home she has ever known. Cynthia and Billy, friends of her mother, take in Sarabeth to live with them and their baby in


Mom held me around the waist, and I bent and kissed her. "I love you, honey," she said. "Love you, too." It was automatic. That's what I can't forget.

When a heart attack takes her mom's life, Sarabeth suddenly loses the only family and home she has ever known. Cynthia and Billy, friends of her mother, take in Sarabeth to live with them and their baby in their tiny one-bedroom apartment. Before long it becomes clear to Sarabeth that she is a burden to them, an intrusion in their lives. She wants to leave, but where can she go?

With startling emotional accuracy and depth, Newbery Honor-winning author Norma Fox Mazer captures what it's like to lose everything but the memories of a home and a mother, and to gain the courage to heal deep wounds.

Editorial Reviews

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“An accomplished novel of profound sorrow.”
Mazer's compassion for adolescents in despair is clear ...and part of the reason for her many successes.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Exploring the aftermath of a family tragedy, this contemporary problem novel provides the intense psychological drama Mazer fans crave, but lacks the suspenseful edge of her After the Rain and Out of Control. The opening chapters will instantly command readers' sympathy and rapt attention, as narrator Sarabeth describes her young, widowed mother's heart attack and subsequent death. The pace slows considerably after the initial crisis has passed and the author focuses on the 13-year-old's misery. With Sarabeth's vision blurred by grief, readers will need patience to develop a clear sense of the minor characters, among them Sarabeth's loyal girlfriends, her new friend James and the adults who decide her future. As Sarabeth is placed in the overcrowded home of her mother's best friend and assigned a social worker, Mazer conveys the heroine's feelings of shock, numbness, loneliness and powerlessness with her usual authenticity. But there are few surprises here; from the moment Sarabeth explains that her parents were essentially disowned by their families, most readers will anticipate that an encounter with these previously unmet relatives will spur Sarabeth's emotional recovery. The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
"Exploring the aftermath of a family tragedy, this contemporary problem novel provides the intense psychological drama Mazer fans crave," wrote PW. "The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel." Ages 10-up. (Nov.)
Beginning by offering readers a brief glimpse one rain-soaked night into thirteen-year-old Sarabeth's relationship with her mother, Mazer's newest book moves forward a few days to when Sarabeth's mother suddenly dies of a heart attack. Sarabeth then not only must come to terms with her mother's death but because she has no known relatives, she also must deal with determining where she will live. Her mother's best friend, Cynthia, and her husband, Billy, take Sarabeth in to their cramped apartment where she begins to cope with life—unsuccessfully. It is not until the final third of the book that Sarabeth decides to seek out her mother's family, from whom her mother had been estranged when she was pregnant with Sarabeth. At this point, the pace quickens and the reader becomes interested in how this new family will fit into Sarabeth's life. In this follow-up to the popular and cherished Silver (Morrow, 1988/VOYA February 1989), Mazer does an admirable job describing Sarabeth's anguish, which can be connected with the five stages of grief identified by psychologists such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, but there seem to be too many minor characters and subplots to really feel for Sarabeth. When she moves in with Cynthia and Billy, the strain it puts on their marriage is apparent, but there is much more to this story to understand exactly why Sarabeth feels she must run away. There is also more to Sarabeth's relationship with her new family that the author does not reveal, leaving the story seeming unfinished when Sarabeth returns to live with yet another of her mother's friends. Mazer's fans will seek out this sequel eagerly. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 224p, $15.95. PLB $15.89. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Denise Beasley SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Children's Literature
Since her father's death, Sarabeth and her mother have settled into a comfortable rhythm with one another. As a young teen, Sarabeth sometimes doesn't get her mother's "weird" passions—like the time she insisted they stand outside in the middle of a storm to drink the rain. When her mother dies, though, it is those very peculiarities that Sarabeth misses most. As she struggles to fit into school life and young adulthood, Sarabeth has to face being really alone for the first time in her life. Her difficult journey leads her in and out of people's lives. But her triumph is genuine when she discovers herself, love, and her place in the world. Anyone who has dealt with loss will identify with the natural internal dialogue Mazer skillfully shares through Sarabeth. Her story will move you through a series of emotions, but ultimately leave you with the courage to heal and to hope—for yourself and the world you love. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Leslie Julian
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-The day after Jane Silver wakes her daughter at 2 a.m. to witness a shower and "drink rain for luck," the 30-year-old woman has a sudden fatal heart attack. With no close relatives to rely on, 13-year-old Sarabeth has to adjust to life without her mom and the only home she's ever known. The theme of death and renewal is not a new one, but Mazer's characters deal with the process in a realistic, heartrending manner. Readers will readily identify with the girl's struggle to adapt as she temporarily moves in with her mother's friend Cynthia and her family. Cynthia's husband continually refers to Sarabeth as "our boarder," making it obvious that she is not part of their family. Inevitably, Sarabeth reluctantly searches out the relatives whom she has never met, unsure of her welcome. These are the same people who had disowned her young parents when Jane became pregnant at age 16. Set in present-day Anytown, U.S.A., the novel quickly draws readers into Sarabeth's world. It is through her eyes that they are introduced to her mother, her friends, her mother's ex-boyfriend, Cynthia, as well as her distant (but surprisingly likable) relatives. Mazer combines gentle humor with serious relationship issues without being preachy or moralistic. Her novel is reminiscent of Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming (Atheneum, 1981), though it is more succinct. Memorable characters, solid writing, and short chapters make Girlhearts a good purchase for most libraries.-Susie Paige, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

On the last night of my mother's life, she came into my room in the middle of the night and called my name. I was dreaming, and her voice became mixed with the dream. A big green bird was talking to me. How intelligent, I thought, and then I woke up. My room was dim, only a little light filtering in around the edges of the shades, and there was Mom standing by my bed, saying, "Sarabeth, come on, wake up."

"What time is it?" I said.

"Two o'clock, I think." She took me by the shoulders. "Come on, sweetie, up. You have to see this."

As mysterious as her words was the way she was dressed, as if for a party, in a close-fitting red dress with a deep neckline. It had been hanging in her closet for years.

"You look nice," I said. "What's happening?"

She handed me my clothes. "You'll see."

She took my hand and pulled me through the house, out the door, and down our road. The air was chilly and had that wet earth smell of late fall. Everything was dark, dark and quiet. Not even a dog barked.

At the top of the long blacktop road that wound down the hill, Mom stopped. "It's not there! Where is it?"

I wondered if something awful was happening to her the way it had to Melissa Schmid's mother. Everyone in school had heard about Mrs. Schmid running down her street naked, calling out for eyeglass donations. "For protection, for protection, people, do you hear me?" she was shouting when the ambulance came.

"Mom," I moved closer to her. "Are you okay?"

She seized my hand again, and we ran down the hill toward the highway. A wind came up and blew against our faces. "Yes," Mom whispered. She pointed across theroad. On one side, our side, the pavement was dry; on the other side, rain drizzled down in a soft silvery sheet. The split between the two sides was as neat as if someone had laid it out with a ruler.

"Cool," I said.

Mom gave me a triumphant smile. "Was that worth getting up for or what? I couldn't sleep," she said, wrapping her arms around herself, "so I got dressed and went out for a walk. I was just walking around, all around, and then I saw this, and--"

"Why couldn't you sleep?"

"I heard the rain on the pavement, you know that sound, sort of pattering? I could smell it! I love that smell. Then I saw this, this curtain of rain, only it was happening higher up, at the top of the road, where we stopped before, and it was so ... beautiful. So beautiful. I just had to show you."

She was still wearing only the red dress, not even a sweater over it, and it seemed to me that she glowed, as if lit from within by a secret fire. "So beautiful," she said again. "Beautiful and mysterious. What do you think it means? Do you think it means something? Maybe it means my luck will change."

I stepped across to the other side of the road and stood in the drizzle. "Maybe it's a sign from the universe," I said, and I wished I'd thought of something more original.

I could use a sign from the universe." Mom moved her hands as if parting the curtain of rain and came to stand next to me. "A sign from anywhere, actually. Hey, universe," she yelled.

"Shhh, Mom!" The rain was coming down harder. We were both getting wet. "We should go back," I said. "We're wet as noodles."

"Yeah." But suddenly she covered her face, her shoulders shook, and little mewling sounds came out from between the fence of her fingers. Was she laughing or crying? Was it the Leo thing again?

Leo had a new girlfriend, a woman with the ridiculous name of Pepper Black. Mom insisted it didn't bother her, that she was glad for him. She had been the one to make the break happen, she reminded me. I should have done it a long time ago. Leo's sweet, and I'll never stop loving him, but we were a worn--out story--"

She said the same thing to Cynthia Ramos, her best friend, and she even talked about it to some of our neighbors, but in the past week or so, her mood had changed. Two nights ago, she'd had a real crying jag. It was strange. She never cried.

"Mom," I said, touching her bent head. I didn't want her to cry and feel rotten. And I didn't want to hear her crying and feel rotten myself "Let's go, Mom."

She parted her hands, looking out at me. "First, we drink rain."

"Mom" I protested.

"Honey, this is special. Sign from the universe, remember? We drink rain for luck. Good luck, that is. Do I need good luck? Yes. Do you need good luck? Yes. Everybody needs good luck." She lifted her face, and now she was laughing, definitely laughing. "Come on, Sarabeth. You, too. Drink the rain!"


"Is that all you can say? Maaoom," she bleated.

I pulled my hair in a wet bunch over my shoulder. My mother was unlike anyone else's. Harder working, younger, prettier, poorer, and, I thought with a tiny pang of guilt, weirder. I opened my mouth and drank rain...

Girlhearts. Copyright © by Norma Mazer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Norma Fox Mazer, who lives in Montpelier, Vermont, has written nearly thirty novels and short-story collections for young adults. Her novels, including Missing Pieces, Out of Control, Girlhearts, and the Newbery Honor Book After the Rain, are critically acclaimed and popular among young readers for their portrayal of teens.

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