The Fool Reversed

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"[A] probing, acutely observed novel about a girl's dangerous first liaison. Anna is only 15 when she falls in love with Thorn, a peot nearly twice her age, and begins a sexual affair . . . Readers will see that Thorn is a predator, pushing Anna into unsavory situations . . . Memorable scenes and insights." -Publishers Weekly

Having started a relationship with a twenty-nine-year-old poet while developing a friendship with a boy her age, fifteen-year-old Anna is confused as she seeks to find and open ...

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"[A] probing, acutely observed novel about a girl's dangerous first liaison. Anna is only 15 when she falls in love with Thorn, a peot nearly twice her age, and begins a sexual affair . . . Readers will see that Thorn is a predator, pushing Anna into unsavory situations . . . Memorable scenes and insights." -Publishers Weekly

Having started a relationship with a twenty-nine-year-old poet while developing a friendship with a boy her age, fifteen-year-old Anna is confused as she seeks to find and open the gateways of love and poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Whitcher (Enchanter's Glass) has hit her stride with this probing, acutely observed novel about a girl's dangerous first liaison. Anna is only 15 when she falls in love with Thorn, a poet nearly twice her age, and begins a sexual affair. Anna, an aspiring poet herself, takes Thorn's self-serving behavior as signs of artistic integrity: "He won't settle for what's ordinary," she tells her friend Dylan. "Thorn told me once, if he can't be good, at least he'll never be petty." Readers will see that Thorn is a predator, pushing Anna into unsavory situations, including a sexually decadent, adults-only costume party at which he all but delivers her to one of his patrons. Capable of sharp, introspective analysis, even without the help of the tarot cards for which the book and many of its chapters are named, Anna is blind when it comes to Thorn. While it seems a bit unbelievable that none of Thorn's associates is bothered by his treatment of Anna, the individual characters are carefully constructed and very real, from the pretentious Thorn to Dylan, a wild-haired teen with both street savvy and wisdom ("You don't have to be anybody special... to be miserable," he tells Anna. "But for contentment, you have to be a philosopher"). The conclusion, in which Dylan is shot by two newly introduced characters, is jarring in comparison with the book's otherwise deliberative pace, but doesn't compromise the impact of Whitcher's memorable scenes and insights. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
The first chapter of this novel, entitled "Sex," opens with 15-year-old Anna losing her virginity to a poet named Thorn who is fourteen years her senior. Anna uses tarot cards to help her make sense out of her conflicting emotions as she plunges into a first love made all the more complicated by its forbidden nature. Meanwhile, Anna meets a boy her own age, Thomas Dylan, who has love troubles of his own. The two form a fast friendship, but that friendship is threatened by Anna's illicit relationship with the elder poet. Thomas Dylan can do little but watch as the esteem-challenged Anna sinks further and further under the subtle influence of the poet. It takes a violent confrontation for Anna to see her situation in a more mature light. Disturbing not only for its frank discussion of sexual issues, but for its careful nonjudgmental tone toward the questionable moral fiber of the protagonist, this book is sure to provoke controversy wherever it is shelved. 2000, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 14 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Christopher Moning
ALAN Review
The Fool Reversed is a well-written, unsentimental examination of relationships. The surface narrative centers on fifteen-year-old Anna Pavelk, who is caught between her affair with an older man and her friendship with a boy her own age. This is also a story about manipulation, loss of innocence, and the gaining of wisdom. Whitcher skillfully uses tarot cards as a motif that weaves together the story's varied strands. As Anna's affair with her older man evolves, she begins to see through the "prism of reversed mirrors" where she has been and where she must eventually go. The resolution is satisfying and credible. The Fool Reversed, to be sure, is for mature readers only. The sexuality is realistic, but not gratuitous and the characters' voices are honest, but not sensational. Genre: Relationships. 2000, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, Ages 12 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Wendy H. Bell
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-Whitcher's writing is cohesive, well constructed, and compelling, which makes this disturbing novel all the more bleak. Anna, 15, loses her virginity to Thorn, an English professor/poet. He is clearly manipulative and perverse-he pressures her into sleeping with his boss and he, in turn, sleeps with her best friend, Pauline. Dylan, a teenaged boy whom Anna meets accidentally, provides ballast in her life. The two tell each other that they are otherwise romantically engaged but their friendship grows, as does his disapproval of her adult lover. In a horrific party scene (reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut), Dylan is arrested and Anna prevails upon Thorn to get him out of custody. This leads to a believable, yet frightening discourse in which Thorn warns Anna about how careful they need to be about their relationship in front of the authorities. Dylan's rescue reveals his life to be more unfortunate than he had led Anna to believe. Nevertheless, after a violent climax in which she is almost raped by some reckless teens, he rescues her and their romantic future seems likely. The adult lover, in the meantime, never receives censure from any other quarter. While Whitcher's alarming plot, skillfully embedded themes, and clear voice are reminiscent of Francesca Lia Block's The Hanged Man (HarperCollins, 1994)-both protagonists even obsess over the tarot-Block's heroine seems to become empowered by The Hanged Man's denouement whereas Anna simply changes alliances. This disconcerting book demands discussion rather than solitary reading.- Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374324469
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/1/1900
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Whitcher is the author of, among other books, Real Mummies Don't Bleed: Frily Tales for October Nights and The Key to the Cupboard. She lives in West Linn, Oregon.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Anna switched the tape recorder to rewind, then hit play. The zipping-backwards gabble choked and slowed to her own voice:

    People think they're preparing you for what it's like, but they can't, really. Why don't they just leave a book on the table for you? But no, you've got to get The Talk. It's some kind of parent's rite of passage, probably.
    My mother gave me the big sex talk about five years ago. We were just sitting in the car, in the parking lot of Jiffy One Hour, waiting—yeah, what an omen. Really.
    My mother is so obsessive, she has to time her dry cleaning. And so, not to waste the jiffy hour, I guess, she pulls out her little spiral pad and starts drawing diagrams. See, here's the woman's insides, Anna. This is the uterus ... here is her vagina. This is the man's ...
    Then she passes the pictures to me sideways, under the dashboard, like passing notes in school.
    You really have to wonder what kind of gated community of the mind my mother thought we'd been living in. I was ten years old, for god's sake, I had two sisters in college! Or at least Vonda was by that time. Rennie was all over that baboon Keith in the laundry room after school, which if my mother didn't realize she must've been breathing too much dry-cleaning fumes. Everybody else in the building knew about it.
    Well, we had The Talk, and I said Yuck or something vaguely appropriate at the juicy parts. What I was really thinking was, if Mrs. Park at the Jiffy handed me the box of lollipops, would my mother make me choose a sugarless one?
    So then she says, "You won't feel that way when the time comes. When you're in the right relationship, Anna. Love will make you feel it's a beautiful experience."
    I really, really hate it whenever somebody tells you that you're going to feel something like that, special. Like, you're going to love this, Anna. Or, you'll be so surprised. Because then right away you know you won't be able to.

    Anna jabbed the pause button. She'd begun all wrong and wished she'd never made her vow not to erase. The vow was the first thing on this tape, along with some dumb-ass theory about the truth hidden in accident, something like that, meaning the things you said by mistake, not thinking, were the ones you really meant all along. By now she'd come to realize all that stuff was just drool. It came out of your mouth while your mind was utterly elsewhere.

    I went to his apartment after school, Anna told the machine. Her fingers hovered above the buttons.

    We were sitting on his futon drinking tea, and talking ... I don't know how to tell this. I think I'm still in shock—

    Pause. How incredibly mundane that sounded. She flopped back on her pillow and stared at the lightbulb in her ceiling. Now she saw blots of color everywhere. One of them turned out to be an actual ink stain on the knee of her pajamas.

    On his futon, the long afternoon slotting through the blinds had streaked their bodies like tigers. They'd held delicate steaming cups of tea ... For some inane reason she'd kept biting the rim of hers while he talked. It has no real taste, green tea. Only a fragrance.

    He'd known before she did what was happening. He took the cup out of her hand. He touched her face, his fingers tracing the line of her cheek, then up under her hair so she had to bend toward him. And no, she'd felt no shock, not even plain surprise. It was more like being suspended in a vacuum, willing for whatever to happen ... irresistibly.

    The soft hiss of the tape machine recalled her thoughts. It ought to be so much easier to tape a diary than to write anything, a poem especially. Because a poem had to illuminate the whole universe in a flash of time, the way lightning sears its instant of vision into the retina. With a diary all you had to do was blurt out what happened and (hopefully) what you thought about it. She released the pause button, though she still hadn't decided what to say.

    She said, Today I made love for the first time.

    It had hurt. She might be still bleeding a little, though not as badly as, for example, when you skin your knee. At least with your knee you got to show off the gore, gain some glory, maybe.

    Really, what she'd wanted to talk about on the tape was pain. There must be some connection that was necessary and cosmic between love and pain; otherwise, why have all those holy martyrs? It was like the way when you cut yourself blood wells up from your heart to fill the wound.

    I used to think love was something you just fell into. Or somebody gave it to you, like the flu ... flowers ... what I mean is, now I understand love is something you have to make. Like out of pain, and hope, and ... For some reason, this is coming out utterly shallow and mundane.

    "Did I hurt you very much?" he'd asked, when they were lying side by side, not touching any more.

    She'd opened her eyes and seen the gold was all rubbed off the afternoon. Their bodies that had been melting in sweat and radiance were dim now in the rumpled shadows of the bed.

    He turned toward her, twisting the white sheet taut over his hip.

    "You are as pale as an eggshell," he said.

    She shook her head, no. Oh, no. The movement made her hair flop over one eye, and so must have spoiled the eggshell effect. She watched him through the dark strands for clues: a fine line etched between his brows ... at the corner of his mouth a deeper, perhaps ironical, crease.

    "You always seem so still and serene," he'd said.

    So then she couldn't possibly say anything.

    Anna gave up on the tape, for the time being at least. Sometimes it seemed that between the inside of her mind and the outside world there was this long, dim hallway. The hallway appeared empty and quiet, but the words starting down it got warped away somehow. They never made it safely to the lighted doorway at the end. When she was little, she'd had the same kind of feeling about getting up in the middle of the night to go down the hall to the bathroom.

    She leaned over the edge of her bed and shoved the tape recorder underneath, where it would be hidden by the folds of the bedspread. The spread, with a pattern of clock-like roses in pink chenille, was a relic, like most of the other junk in her room, of her pre-conscious childhood. She really hated her room.

    She got up and rummaged through her stash of writing materials for a sheet of silky onionskin bond paper, which she laid on the center of her desk. It would be better, after all, to write a poem.

    She liked to keep the desk surface clear, like the mind freed for thought. All the stuff like papers or school binders had to go in the drawers, or underneath where it didn't show and fret at the edges of her concentration. She kept out the two copies of Intus and The Keystone Review that he had given her, with his pieces published in them. On top of these she laid a small glass paperweight with a blown bubble inside. If she lined it up just right, the bubble caught a gleam from the unshaded lightbulb in the ceiling and held it, like a star.


    She wrote the word, then wondered if it wouldn't just make everybody think of lightbulbs. A lightbulb ... As far as she remembered, the little wire inside glowed without burning up because there was a vacuum. If you cracked the glass around it, air would rush in, and the filament would instantly flare up and die.

    After maybe half an hour of staring at the single word on the blazing-white page she realized she had nothing more to say. She went down the hall to the bathroom, where she stared at the small pink stain on her underpants. Then she wandered into the kitchen to find something edible, but there wasn't anything, so she went to bed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2001

    Read this book!!!

    I loved this book so so much. This is one of the the books that i read over and over just incase i missed anthing. The characters are so interesting. And i loved the realtionships between the Anna and Thorn and Anna and Dylan. When i started reading this book i couldn't put it down. I would totally reccomend this book to all my friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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