Saving Grace

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When Grace Stanley’s brother is killed in a car accident just before her junior year of high school, her life is split in two: before and after Matt died. Before, she loved to draw, play lacrosse, laugh, and listen to loud music with her best friends. And after, she doesn’t see much point in anything—not school, not her friends or parents, not herself, and certainly not God. Then along comes Philomena, a mysterious girl who is always popping up unexpectedly . . . and who ...

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When Grace Stanley’s brother is killed in a car accident just before her junior year of high school, her life is split in two: before and after Matt died. Before, she loved to draw, play lacrosse, laugh, and listen to loud music with her best friends. And after, she doesn’t see much point in anything—not school, not her friends or parents, not herself, and certainly not God. Then along comes Philomena, a mysterious girl who is always popping up unexpectedly . . . and who just might be exactly what Grace needs.
Saving Grace is the story of a vulnerable and remarkable girl who is struggling through profound loss, figuring out her faith and her place in the universe—and making plenty of mistakes along the way.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Presents readers with a bit of a twist on a familiar story of death and the grief process . . . Beyond the ordinary."—VOYA

"Absorbing."—The Bulletin
Children's Literature - Tracy Riddle
A touching story about a teenage girl coping with the loss of a sibling—will Grace be saved from her mourning? As Grace's parents find their way to peace, Grace is caught in turbulence dealing with the loss herself and who she is now that her loved one is gone. We see Grace through her mourning process and her interactions with the people around her. The book offers a mature lesson on loss, the powers above, and having faith. A seriously sad, fictionally dramatic, yet uplifting book from which I am sure a number of adolescent readers can learn and to which they can relate.
VOYA - Teri S. Lesesne
Grace fears the beginning of this school year. She knows that her older brother's death in a car accident has changed everything at home and worries that people at school will only serve as a reminder of his loss. Her fears prove to be true as she founders in trig class, avoids Matt's best friend, and spends lunchtime alone in the library. When Dana and her group of ultra-popular girls approach her, Grace rushes at the chance to be with a different set of friends, one that has no ties to Matt. Dana and her friends introduce Grace to drinking, cutting classes, and shopping sprees. For a while, Grace is able to forget all about her sadness, but she is due for a crash course in reality. Can she survive the collision? Spencer's novel presents readers with a bit of a twist on a familiar story of death and the grief process. Grace's salvation, a new student named Philomena, is a spiritual creature sent to help Grace navigate her way back to family and friends. Although the spiritual aspect of the story is minimal, it lifts the book beyond the ordinary. Readers who enjoy Neal Shusterman's Everlost (Simon & Schuster, 2006/October 2006) or Jacqueline Woodson's Behind You (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004/VOYA June 2004) will appreciate this novel's take on filling the void left by the death of a family member or friend.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Grace Stanley returns to high school a different girl after a tragic summer during which her brother died in a car crash running an errand in her place. She drops her friends and catches the notice of a fast, wealthy crowd. Drinking, designer shopping with her "emergency" credit card, clubbing on a fake ID, and making out with basketball captain Dylan all seem to blur her pain. While her parents insist that church, charity, and speaking with their pastor make them better able to cope, Grace feels angry and estranged from God. Her parents condone a church concert to benefit the homeless and honor her brother's memory, but Grace feels betrayed that the remnants of Matt's band would play without him. Meanwhile, her math grade plummets, relations with her family weaken, and she loses face with the in-crowd by getting sick after drinking and drugging. Enter Philomena, an odd new girl at school, to save the day: a self-proclaimed sort of guardian angel sent to help Grace pull it together and restore her faith. The plot is predictable, and characterization remains two-dimensional; while the writing is serviceable, the redemptive theme is heavy-handed and the ending is saccharine. Better choices about losing a beloved family member are Sarah Dessen's The Truth about Forever (Viking, 2004) and Sis Deans's Every Day and All the Time (Holt, 2003).-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Grace sees no point in following rules or living up to her parents' expectations after the accidental death of her beloved older brother Matt. While her parents seek solace in religion, Grace, a junior in high school, chops off her hair (and her skirt) and abandons her old friends to hang out and drink with the cool kids. Luckily, Grace has a guardian angel-or at least someone who takes an otherworldly interest in her welfare. Philomena appears to be just a slightly eccentric classmate, but by story's end her supernatural role is revealed. Or rather, vaguely described. Unfortunately, despite a promising beginning that grounds Grace's story squarely in today's teen world, the simultaneously unlikely and predictable plot and cardboard characterization prevent the possibility of readers getting in engaged enough to care what becomes of her. Stuck somewhere between a sentimental tear-jerker and a trendy teen-read, this unsuccessful problem novel treats serious topics too trivially to merit much respect. (Fiction. 12-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152060961
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Series: Saving Grace Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 748,244
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHERINE SPENCER has written many books for children and adults, including eight books in the bestselling Cape Light series. She lives on Long Island, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Saving Grace

By Spencer, Katherine

Harcourt Paperbacks

Copyright © 2007 Spencer, Katherine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780152060961

Chapter One
People can be so weird. You think you really know somebody—your best friend or even your mom or dad—and then something happens. Something huge and unimaginable. Something that changes everything.
           Afterward you realize you don’t know anyone the way you thought you did.
           You don’t even know yourself.
           That’s what I kept thinking the first day of school. I’d hardly even left the house since the accident. And now, as I walked down the hallway and sat in my morning classes, everyone seemed like a stranger, giving me funny looks, whispering behind my back. Maybe I’d expected some of that. But I didn’t expect people to stare right through me, as if I were invisible. As if I were the ghost, instead of Matt.
           By the time lunch rolled around, I just wanted to see my friends. My mom had dropped me off late, and I’d missed meeting up with them before the first bell. The cafeteria was a complete and utter zoo, but it wasn’thard to pick my gang out of the crowd. They were sitting in the usual spot, third table down on the left, next to the courtyard windows.
           “Grace! Over here!” Rebecca saw me first. She smiled and waved. When I walked over, she jumped up and slung her arms around me in a quick, tight hug. For a second I felt like my normal old self again, instead of Harding High’s new sideshow, the girl whose brother had died that summer.
           I dropped into a seat at the end of the table and took out my lunch. Sara Kramer was in the middle of a story, as usual, making everyone laugh.
            “. . . so then this really hot guy walks up and says, ‘I can get it open. Let me try.’ He yanks on the door and practically tears the locker right off the wall. I swear, he was like a superhero or something. And he was totally hot . . . Did I mention that part?” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “So I get my books out. Finally. But then I can’t close the door because the Mighty Hunk has bent it totally out of shape. Now I have to go down to the office and tell somebody, and they’re probably going to charge me to fix it. But the worst part is, I didn’t even find out his name . . .”
           She took a sip of her soda and sighed heavily. Sara is our drama queen. She can’t help herself. She can leave a room for two minutes to get a drink of water and relate an entire adventure when she gets back.
           “I know who you mean.” Andy Chin nodded. “Shaggy brown hair? He has on an orange T-shirt with a surf logo?”
           Sara leaned across the table. “You know him?”
           “He’s in my chem lab. I don’t think he’s that hot.”
           “In matters of taste there can be no argument,” Sara declared in an elegant tone. “And that boy is totally tasty.”
           Andy laughed and took another bite of salad. Quiet and incredibly smart, Andy never loses her cool. She always eats healthy stuff she brings from home in a plastic container and has a pin on her knapsack that says, meat is murder.
           “So, what’s his name already?” Rebecca prodded.
           “Rob Schneider, I think.” Andy shrugged. “Something like that.”
           “He’s not new.” I shoved my half-eaten sandwich back into the plastic bag. “He transferred last spring from Ridgefield. He used to hang out with Matt sometimes.”
           Suddenly quiet, they all turned to look at me.
           Sara looked embarrassed. “That’s right. I guess I did see him around last year. Maybe he’s been lifting weights over the summer . . . Grace . . . ?” Sara’s blue eyes widened. She’d been so absorbed talking about her mystery man, this was the first time she’d taken a good look at me. “Whoa . . . you totally cut your hair. When did that happen?”
           Andy and Rebecca exchanged swift glances. I could tell they’d noticed my hair but didn’t want to make a big deal over it. I’d basically been hiding out in my room for a month and a half, ever since Matt’s funeral. But the haircut was a recent development. As recent as last night, in fact. In sort of a fit, I’d just chopped it all off. I felt so different inside, I wanted it to show.
           I’d done it in the bathroom with a pair of sewing scissors. My mom was in her bedroom watching TV. I could hear the sound of a home-decorating show through the half-closed door.
           With Matt gone, our house felt empty and strange and lonely. Some nights I would go to my parents’ room and stretch out beside my mom on the bed. We didn’t really talk. We didn’t have to. We each knew what the other was feeling. Other nights I’d sit on the floor in the dark hallway outside their door, wanting to be near my mother but not wanting to actually face her. Our dog, Wiley, would drop down next to me. Wiley missed Matt, too. He just couldn’t say so.
           Wiley and I would sit there, side by side, listening to the TV babbling away and my mom crying quietly, pulling tissues from a box on the bed, thinking no one could hear her.
           Meanwhile my dad would disappear into his home office in the basement right after dinner and stay at his computer until everyone else went to bed. Sometimes I’d hear the keyboard tapping away. And other times nothing at all. He never used to work at home, but since the accident, he did it a lot.
           It had been easy last night to sneak some beers out of the fridge and up to my room. I’d never had much interest in alcohol. None of my friends drank. But now I felt like, why not? A nice buzz sure softened the edges and helped numb the pain. I’d felt scared about coming back to school and the beers helped that, too. That’s when the makeover impulse had struck, I guess.
           I cried when I finally realized what I’d done. Another beer helped that, too.
           After the initial shock I decided I liked the choppy look of it. It was out there. Edgy. The new Grace. So of course I had to find an outfit this morning that matched the hair, something radically different from my usual look, which was a semigrunge, no-slave-to-fashion-but-no-nerd-either style.
            I’d tossed aside a T-shirt and cargo pants for a short denim skirt, then made it even skimpier using those handy scissors again. I layered a few tank tops and found a pair of awesome Indian earrings that dangled practically to my shoulders. Not quite my usual style.
           This morning guys who had never given me a second look were drooling all over my history text. I didn’t mind. What was the point of being so good all the time and dressing like such a nice girl, anyway? Life is short. I wanted dessert first.
           Sara still stared at me.
           I shrugged. “I cut it last night. I just felt like it. Guess I needed a change.”
           She nodded quickly. “It looks great. Honest. It’s just really . . . different.”
           I knew she didn’t like it. That’s what people mean when they say “really different,” right?
           My poor mom had actually gagged on her coffee when I showed up in the kitchen. My father had left very early for a business conference in Baltimore, sparing me his reaction. At least until tomorrow night.
           “I think it looks cool. I’d love to cut my hair. Long hair is such a pain.” I could tell Andy was trying hard to be positive, because she never talked that way.
           Hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to act all perky for me, I wanted to say.
           I caught myself. It just reminded me again that I was in a bad place and my friends felt sorry for me. Maybe that was why it had been so hard to see them this last month and a half. After the funeral it was hard to see anybody.
           Rebecca glanced across the table, her brown eyes soft and sympathetic. “What’s your schedule like? Who did you get for trig?”
           “Nurdleman. Just my luck.”
           Sara made a face.
           “Bad break. I heard he’s tough.”
           “The worst . . . Ma—” I tried to say more, but I couldn’t get past my brother’s name.
           Matt, who’d been an honest-to-goodness math whiz, had promised to get me through trig, no matter what. I was certain now I’d never pass on my own.
           “Did you say something, Grace?” Rebecca looked confused.
           “Never mind.” I shook my head. I suddenly missed the rest of my hair. The way I could conveniently hide under it. And as much as I’d wanted to see my friends, I didn’t feel like sitting with them anymore. I wasn’t even sure why.
           “Listen, I need to take care of some stuff . . . with my guidance counselor.”
           “Okay, but wait a sec.” Rebecca looked at Andy and Sara, and these slow, mysterious smiles appeared on all their faces.
           “We have something for you. It’s a surprise.” Sara looked excited. She loves surprises.
           I used to love surprises. But I didn’t anymore. Surprises made me feel nervous now.

Copyright © 2006 by Parachute Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


Excerpted from Saving Grace by Spencer, Katherine Copyright © 2007 by Spencer, Katherine. 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

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Frizzie for

    After the death of her brother, Grace Stanley starts acting strange. She dumps her old friends, starts drinking, starts lying to everyone, starts hanging out with the popular kids, flunking her classes, missing study sessions, and skipping school. <BR/><BR/>But then something happens; Grace just snaps. Later, her parents confront her about missing classes and flunking math. They tell her that this isn't like her and that they didn't realize that she was having so much trouble. <BR/><BR/>She feels like she can't talk to them because they're always at church. But then Grace meets a girl named Philomena. She helps Grace with everything. See what happens. Find out what makes Grace say "enough!" <BR/><BR/>Grace has a lot of feelings and you get to hear them through her point of view. I think this book was excellent. It was thrilling and I didn't want to put it down. I recommended it to all of my friends when I was finished; it made you want to read more and more!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A touching and uplifting story that takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster.

    When something tragic happens in teenager Grace Stanley's life, she loses control of herself and becomes someone she never thought she'd be. Life was so easy for Grace before her brother died in a car accident over the summer. After his death Grace begins to lose her faith in God and begins to seclude herself from the world. Once Grace goes back to school she gets herself into all sorts of trouble, that make the reader want to keep flipping the pages to see how far she goes, in the book "Saving Grace". <BR/><BR/>Author Katherine Spencer makes Grace's brother Matt a big part of the story. Grace gets the reader to know him well making his death extremely emotional for those reading this book. <BR/><BR/>Grace's grief is extremely believable due to the fact she completely idolized her brother. She adored him for his individuality and his single mindedness. Grace finds it difficult to believe he is actually gone forever and she sadly blames herself for his death. <BR/><BR/>Grace's parents use church to relieve their sadness. While they spend most of their time at church volunteering, they are oblivious to how badly Grace is coping with the loss of Matt. <BR/><BR/>As Grace starts 11th grade she befriends the popular crowd, ditches her old friends, lies to her parents, cuts classes, and uses alcohol and pills to treat her grief and stress. When her problems start to build up it becomes too much for her to handle. <BR/><BR/>I couldn't imagine going through what Grace did without any real support. Grace wouldn't have recovered if it weren't for the new girl in school named Philomena. Philomena eventually befriends Grace at her lowest point in the story and helps her find herself and brings back her faith in God. Philomena seems almost like a miracle sent from God (or Matt). Her mysterious life and her gentle heart make her seem close to angelic. The book doesn't directly tell you who or what Philomena is, making you decide for yourself. <BR/><BR/>This book had such an extremely moving and grappling plot that kept me constantly reading. This story seemed special to me because I felt I could relate to Grace even though I never really lost someone that close to me. I think any teen could relate to Grace and get something out of this book. For this purpose I highly recommend the book to anyone willing to take an emotional adventure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2008

    a reviewer

    Oh My Gosh this book is like so awesome touching and moving in many different ways. i may only be 13 but this book is verry aweome in my mind you'll have to buy it to here the end of the book!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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