A Map of the Known World

A Map of the Known World

4.3 27
by Lisa Sandell

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Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her… See more details below


Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

They say no land remains to be discovered, no continent is left unexplored. But the whole world is out there, waiting, just waiting for me. I want to do things-I want to walk the rain-soaked streets of London, and drink mint tea in Casablanca. I want to wander the wastelands of the Gobi desert and see a yak. I think my life's ambition is to see a yak. I want to bargain for trinkets in an Arab market in some distant, dusty land. There's so much. But, most of all, I want to do things that will mean something.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Family life comes to an abrupt halt for 14-year-old Cora after the death of her older brother, Nate, in a car accident. Dreading her entrance to high school seven months after the event ("If he had still been alive, I might have had a fighting chance at being able to distance myself from him.... Now I'll be the girl whose brother died") and with her parents lost to their numbing grief, Cora finds sustenance in her passion for maps and mapmaking. A new friend, the encouragement of an art teacher and growing interest in her brother's best friend, Damian, who was in the car when he was killed, all slowly revive her emotional life and self-confidence. Sandell creates a satisfying tension by juxtaposing Cora's grief and anger at her parents with her developing attraction to Damian and her growing sense of possibility about her own future. Sandell's two previous novels were written in verse and, despite occasional emotional editorializing, her fluid phrasing and choice of metaphors give her prose a quiet poetic ambience. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Cora's brother is dead. Her parents are consumed with grief. Her friends do not know what to say to her. Cora is angry at her brother for driving as irrationally as he did that night. To top if off, she is in the same art class as her brother's best friend—the one who was with him the night he died, the one her parents blame for his death, the one she is attracted to anyway. And to think that art was her only escape. This is how the book begins. There is little action and the romance is downplayed. There are no big, dramatic scenes or any happy endings, either (although the ending is not necessarily sad). Despite these traits, this is a beautiful story about grief and healing. These are difficult topics to handle without becoming melodramatic, yet the author does it delicately, patiently and realistically. While the text is not too difficult to read, it is a book for high level readers because of it's subtly. Even when dealing with typical adolescent topics, like friends growing apart, with the author does not use a fight in the hallway. Rather, the story is told through unreturned phone calls or a changing of seats in the cafeteria, the way these stories often play out in life. Just like Cora has to slowly learn how to deal with the changes in her life, so does the reader. Yet Cora is an artist. She turns her pain into something beautiful—just like this author turns what could be a sappy story into a piece of art. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

In this contemporary coming-of-age story, 14-year-old Cora is emotionally isolated from her parents following the death of her older brother, Nate. As she begins high school, his absence looms large. His "bad boy" reputation makes mention of him off-limits. Only his best friend and accident survivor, Damian, knows who Nate really was. As Cora becomes his friend in art class, Damian slowly reveals Nate's true passion, character, and plans. But her parents blame Damian for the accident and Cora is forced to keep her newfound understanding a secret. Resolution eventually unfolds in a somewhat predictable but satisfying chain of events. Cora is multifaceted, well developed and appropriately contradictory. Her epiphanies about art being the answer to life's problems are overly dramatic but they do obviate the despair and longing for inner peace that she feels. Unfortunately Damian, the one readers are perhaps most curious about, remains more of an enigma. Sandell's story is richly textured with day-to-day complications including the loss of a best friend to a popular clique, budding romance, a father who is drowning his grief in gin, a suddenly overprotective mother, and Cora's own creative potential. But these complications sometimes distract and slow the pace. This book will appeal to students who have experienced the death of someone close, although the depth of that grief is more keenly presented in Brent Runyon's Maybe (Knopf, 2006) or Katherine Spencer's Saving Grace (Harcourt, 2006).-Sue Lloyd, Franklin High School, Livonia, MI

Kirkus Reviews
Aspiring cartographer-and introvert-Cora has endured a lot of negative changes in the last four months. Her brother Nate's death in a car accident has torn her family apart. Now she has to start high school as "the girl whose brother died." She's also growing apart from her best friend. There's nowhere for her to escape in her small town, so she fuels her dreams of travel by studying and expanding the world map she has in her bedroom. Advanced Art class is the one place Cora thought she could find refuge, until her brother's best friend, Damian Archer, shows up. Art brings Cora and Damian into a heady romance. It also gives Cora the strength to make herself happy, and to defy her parents in pursuit of learning more about Nate. Cora's voice is often too wise and mature, but the slow pacing accurately portrays the way that a few months in the life of a freshman can seem like eternity. The attractive cover will draw romance readers, who are in for a satisfying read if they can get past the first 50 pages. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

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