Welcome to the Ark

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In a world of random violence and multiplying militias, four brilliant young misfits are thrown together in a group home for troubled youth. Isolated by their special abilities, Miranda, Doug, Taryn, and Elijah are unable to cope in a society that regards them as freaks.

But in the experimental program they dub the Ark, the four discover they are not alone. Slowly, as connections form among them, they discover that their minds have a power they could never have imagined. Drawn ...

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Overview

In a world of random violence and multiplying militias, four brilliant young misfits are thrown together in a group home for troubled youth. Isolated by their special abilities, Miranda, Doug, Taryn, and Elijah are unable to cope in a society that regards them as freaks.

But in the experimental program they dub the Ark, the four discover they are not alone. Slowly, as connections form among them, they discover that their minds have a power they could never have imagined. Drawn together by their deep concern for the future, they embark on a mission to stop the violence that is engulfing the world. The challenge seems impossible ...until they face it together.

In this compelling, sensitively written story, Stephanie Tolan paints a disturbing portrait of a violence-ridden world. Yet her characters offer a bright ray of hope for anyone who cares about the fate of the earth. The story of the Ark is gripping, suspenseful, heartbreaking, and, ultimately, inspiring.

When four child prodigies transfer from a center for research and rehabilitation to an experimental group home, they face another way of connecting with their world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This science fiction adventure features four highly gifted but troubled teens brought to an experimental group home. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature
Four troubled children, each a prodigy in his own realm, are consigned to the Laurel Mountain Psychiatric Hospital in upper New York State. Miranda, a linguistic genius; Doug a math, music and computer whiz; Taryn, a sensitive-psychic; and Elijah, an autistic savant, are blended into a "family" under the guidance of Noah and Abigail Periodes, psychologists and substitute parents. The four are removed from the hospital to a separate cabin nicknamed "the Ark." The children (actually two teens and two pre-teens) meld beyond the Periodes' wildest expectations. With Taryn as the fulcrum, the four tune into a shared psychic connection that anticipates an apocalyptic world threatened by global terrorism. The book has a slow build up, as the four children are separately defined and their gifts are explained and explored. The story doesn't really take off until "the family" attains shape and the childrens' interdependence becomes clear. The book's format is also slightly problematic. The narrative is broken up with Miranda's diary entries, Doug and Miranda's computer conversations, pages from the childrens' diagnostic folders, and memos from hospital officials. Although the insertions contribute to the plot, they interrupt the flow of the narrative. Despite these difficulties, Tolin uses her not-so-futuristic storyline to raise some serious questions about how a family is defined, whether "normal" is a relative term, and if we as a society are heading rapidly toward chaos mode. As Miranda and Doug conclude, this is a new century and the old social and familial connections need to be redefined. 1996, HarperTempest, Ages 14 to 18, $6.95. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
VOYA - Jacqueline Rose
Four troubled young people live in a group home: Doug, seventeen, Miranda, sixteen, Taryn, nine, and Elijah, eight. Formerly patients in a psychiatric hospital, they are chosen for the home because of their exceptional intelligence and psychic powers. The husband and wife who run the home, psychologists Noah and Abigail, try to create a safe environment for these four sensitive outsiders so they can develop their abilities to the fullest. Noah and Abigail also hope to publish research on the parapsychological phenomena their charges demonstrate while living in the home they name "The Ark." The kids "connect" with each other through dreams and telepathy, and reach out to others like themselves all over the world via the Internet. All four are especially tuned in to violent events, reacting with anguish each time they sense that people are being harmed or killed. They begin to formulate plans to rid the world of violence, but before they get very far, a jealous, hostile psychiatrist causes the demise of the Ark. Though it is not clear what happens to each one in the intervening years, three of them meet again as adults and decide to resume their quest. Tolan does a superb job depicting emotionally disturbed, gifted youth. Teens will relate to the characters' social alienation and passion for peace. Readers will love to hate the evil, interfering psychiatrist and they will enjoy the fact that Noah and Abigail bow to the power of their young patients. The themes of violence and nonviolence are masterfully explored. As they examine their own urges to use violent means to stop violent people, the kids recognize this contradiction to their basic values. The story might be difficult for some readers to follow because it is written in the form of journal entries by all the different characters. This switching back and forth makes the plot and characters seem blurry initially. Interesting Biblical symbolism is woven into the story, enhancing the messages for readers who grasp it. The book will be best appreciated by sophisticated readers who understand its subtleties. Those who persist will find it worth the struggle. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Candace Fowler
Unable to cope with a hostile and increasingly violent world, four brilliant, troubled young people find themselves in an experimental program (called the Ark) at a psychiatric hospital. There they discover the comfort of mutual understanding and a potent psychic ability to combat the world's violence. But can they use their power wisely? And what will happen when the scheming hospital director tries to close down the Ark? A suspenseful plot, well-drawn characters, and sensitive understanding of the special challenges faced by the extremely intelligent make this book a good read for young adults.
KLIATT
Four exceptional young people residing in a psychiatric hospital are chosen to live in an experimental counseling setting as a "global family." Their counselors hope that by connecting with the world outside of their own, through the Internet and technology, they will heal. What occurs is quite amazing: each of these kids has exceptional powers to connect with one another, and the world, in unique and often psychic ways. The story continues with what happens to this group when they use and apply some of their talents. The book is written from perspectives from each of the characters, and unfolds much like a mystery. While the storyline is initially interesting, the plot and the character development were a little too convoluted to follow. However, it is an interesting book, along the lines of The Giver and 1984. Young readers may find the challenges that the characters face intriguing if they can follow the twists and turns of the story. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1996, HarperCollins/HarperTempest, 250p, 18cm, 96-10163, $6.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Sarah Applegate; Libn., River Ridge H.S., Lacey, WA, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9This story is set in the near future at a facility for troubled youngsters in upstate New York. Two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 8-17, have been selected to take part in an experimental program. Living together as a family with two doctors as parental figures, the four highly intelligent young people are encouraged to learn from one another and reach out globally to other potential geniuses via the Internet. They soon recognize a shared concern about the increasing violence in the world and a compelling desire to halt it. Shared paranormal powers amplify the bond among the four and give new meaning to the "world wide web." When the director of the institution discovers the exciting new "paradigm shift" of the experiment, he plans to manipulate it to his own advantage, until he sees it as a liability and rapidly disbands the program. Years later, three of the four subjects have become functioning adults, still dreaming that psychic networking will save humankind. Tolan's skill with language, plus the dramatic tension between six sympathetic, if incomplete, characters and their nemesis make the novel readable. Its weaknesses, however, are greater than its strengths. The functional but unaesthetic format is a patchwork of journal entries, memos, e-mail, medical records, etc. A more serious problem is the shape-shifting focus. The ideas and issues raised are interesting and thought-provoking, but quickly dissolve into sentimentality.Margaret Cole, Oceanside Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Tolan (Save Halloween!, 1993, etc.) weaves the themes of adolescent alienation, the transcendent power of cooperation, and the threat of social disintegration in this tautly constructed work of science fiction.

The aptly named heroine, Miranda, lives in a brave new world set only three years in the future, yet frighteningly familiar to today's teens. Against a backdrop of terrorist attacks, high-school shoot-outs, and militia stand-offs, teens struggle to gain control of their personal worlds, even as their families splinter. Considered a "baby genius," Miranda is committed to a mental hospital for what her parents consider growing irrationality. She and her fellow inmates soon realize they share a common fate. Dr. Noah and his colleague and wife, Abigail, recognize that while Miranda and the others are troubled, they are also truly gifted. Under the auspices of their "Ark" project, they enable Miranda, Doug, Elijah, and Taryn to reach out via computer networks and other means to children and teenagers around the world. While countries shatter into warring fragments, the group establishes a level of sensitivity most adults never realize, tools that ultimately ensure the survival of the human race. Frightening and grim, a sophisticated tale of redemption.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688137243
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Pages: 250
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie S. Tolan is the author of more than twenty-five books for young readers, including Listen!, which won the Christopher Award and the Henry Bergh ASPCA Award. Her New York Times bestselling novel Surviving the Applewhites received a Newbery Honor and was named a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children, a School Library Journal Best Book, an ALA Booklist Editors' Choice, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book, and an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Tolan lives on a little lake in a big woods in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband (Bob), two dogs (Coyote—the real dog from Listen!—and Samantha), one cat (Puck), and plenty of outdoor creatures.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

April 15, 1999

PHENOM VANISHES

PARIS (AP)-Fifteen-year-old Miranda Ellenby, known to the world through her mother's best-selling book, Phenom in the Family, has disappeared from an academic conference on language and culture where she was to present a paper. She is the youngest person ever to be asked to participate in the elite international gathering. Ellenby was last seen by a doorman at her hotel yesterday when she left "for a walk" shortly after dawn. "We were to meet for breakfast," said Dr. Miriam Freidenberg, her companion and adviser at Harvard, where Ellenby is pursuing a doctorate in Romance languages and literature, "but she never appeared." French police have been joined in their investigation by Interpol. The girl's distraught father, Dr. Walter Ellenby, who has built a multimillion-dollar business aimed at teaching parents how to create geniuses, arrived in Paris this morning to join the search.

April 15, 1999

Miranda

IN THE LATE-AFTERNOON SUN, the girl in blue jeans and sneakers and a flowered warm-up jacket, her hair pushed up into a gold beret, was very still. Leaning over the bridge rail, she watched a bateau-mouche churn by beneath, stirring the dark water as it passed. She kept her head turned away from the figures moving on the busy sidewalk behind her. Among the stories of border conflicts and terrorist bombings, the morning papers in three languages had been full of her disappearance, her publicity photo from the conference brochure smiling out from the pages.

She sighed and reached into her jacket pocket to pull out an orange. It was the last remnant of the foodshe had bought yesterday--cheese, bread, fruit, pastries, sparkling water. The rest she had consumed in the shabby pension in Montmartre where she had spent the night. The concierge had asked no questions, accepting her accent, the way nearly everyone did, as Parisian, with a shadow of something that hinted, perhaps, of a country childhood.

She had not meant to run away. She had meant only to take a walk, as she had told the grandfatherly doorman who fussed about the dangers of the city and the chill of the misty morning air. But when it was time to go back she had found she couldn't. Something drew her on, farther and farther from the hotel, finally to have breakfast alone at a sidewalk café, watching people as the city woke up and went about its business. And then on again, first along the Seine, then into side streets, watching the people. Always watching the people. The woman pushing a baby carriage, the lovers leaning against a tree in a tiny park, their arms twined around each other. The old men on a bench, arguing in a dialect she could barely understand, one gesturing with his cigar, the other with a folded newspaper.

She had a sense that she was looking for something, something all those other people seemed to have. She didn't even know for certain what it was, only that in spite of speaking their language, the thing that should have made her one of them, she didn't have it. Had never had it.

Now she began peeling the orange, dropping the first bit of peel into the river below and watching the spot of color bob sideways in the fading wake, dipping and turning as it moved toward the line of foam and debris along the muddy bank beneath the bridge. The rest of the peel she put into her pocket. As she separated the segments, she thought about last night, the first night of her life when no one, not Mother or Daddy, not Miriam, not Dr. James, had been with her, or even known where she was. The first night of her life she had ever been truly alone.

She had sat by the window of the little room with the stained ceiling, staring out over the rooftops of Paris, silvered by moonlight. By morning she had made a decision. She would go back, of course. About that she had no choice. She would not explain her leaving -- how could she when she didn't fully understand it herself? She would greet their questions with silence and let them invent their own stories. This evening she would present her paper on schedule. And when the conference ended she would fly home with Miriam.

But she would not continue the life her mother and father had planned for her.

When Miranda had finished the orange, her hands and mouth sticky with the juice, she turned toward the street and began to walk back to the hotel, keeping her head down, her eyes on her feet. As she walked, unnoticed among the hurrying people, even by the soldiers patrolling with their guns slung over their backs, she thought about what she had understood in the long, drifting quiet of the moonlit night. She had started learning languages all those years ago in a desperate search for her native tongue. She had never found it. She suspected now she never would.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction:

Welcome to the Ark focuses on four children ranging in age from eight to seventeen, whose extraordinary gifts isolate them from other children and from normal expectations of what constitutes rational, reasonable behavior.

Taryn, a poetry prodigy labeled schizophrenic, is a healer able to communicate with other life forms; Elijah, an apparently autistic child, "hears" the deep growl of violence when it occurs in the world around him; Miranda, world-renowned "baby genius" and linguistic prodigy, has become alienated not only from other humans, but from her own emotions and natural empathy; and Doug, flutist and math whiz, has turned the violence he sees in his family and cultural environment first against its treasured material goods and then against himself.

In a near-future world in which violence is pandemic, these four intensely sensitive children are brought together in an experimental group home in a private mental hospital. In the program they dub "the Ark," they discover their deep mental bond with one another, a bond that eventually connects them with other unusual children around the world. As they begin to explore the power of their connection, they discover it offers great hope for the future of the world, and great danger as well.

A Note From The Author:

Welcome to the Ark is a work of fiction and Miranda, Doug, Elijah, and Taryn are invented characters. However, they are based on real people. In working with a group of extremely bright children, I was able to observe the sort of "thinking together" that the children of the Ark begin to do. I know someone who is able to "read" abook merely by holding it in her hands. I can't explain these abilities, but like Noah and Abigail, I know because of my own experience that they exist. Modern physics has shown us that mind and matter are not as separate as we once thought. Can anyone (or any group of people) really "reflect" violence back on those who would use it, or "tame" the violent impulse in another human being? I don't know. That is an aspect of this book which came from my imagination. But here's something else to think about--we don't know exactly what imagination is or how it works.

Reviews:

"Tolan weaves the themes of adolescent alienation, the transcendent power of cooperation, and the threat of social disintegration in this tautly constructed work of science fiction.... Frightening and grim, a sophisticated tale of redemption." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Tolan blends elements of science fiction with nonstop suspense in a provocative, disturbingly real story.... Drawing on her own experiences with exceptionally bright children, she has created a finely portrayed group of characters who will seem achingly familiar to any child who has ever felt isolated or disconnected. She also raises tantalizing questions guaranteed to spur discussion in classroom literature circles." -- Booklist

"Novels can help us think about our lives and our world in new ways" -- SST

Questions For Discussion:

  1. These topics are designed to encourage thinking and the sharing of beliefs and ideas. They are not about the "right" answer, or about literary analysis.

    Violence and Warfare

  2. Are people more prone to violence today than in the past?
  3. Is violence necessary and morally acceptable for defensive purposes?

    Differences

  4. How do people usually respond to people who are different from themselves?
  5. Do we respond to people we think are brighter than ourselves in the same way we respond to people of different races and cultures?

    Mutations

  6. Is the human race changing biologically?

    Mind Power

  7. Can we get information from outside ourselves as well as from our five senses?
  8. Is there consciousness in the universe outside of the human mind?

    Families

  9. Are biological families the best place for children to grow up?

    Science

  10. How reliable is the information science provides about reality at any given time?
  11. Could science constitute a belief system similar to religious belief systems?

    Status of Children

  12. How much are children valued in our culture?
  13. How might we determine how much value any society places on its children?

    Social Isolation

  14. Is it necessary for all human beings to feel part of a group or community?

    Thinking Further, Going Deeper:

    The same topics and related ones can serve to spur deeper and broader-ranging discussions that can lead to research to support or refute students' opinions, beliefs, and conclusions. Formal debates or research papers may result from these explorations.

    Violence

  15. How do we know the level of violence in our own society? In societies and cultures of the past? What is the difference between media, government or police statistics, and historical reporting? What are possible reasons someone might purposely distort information about social violence, personal violence, or war? Can you find examples of distortion either in history texts or in media?
  16. Do you agree with Taryn that using violence to oppose violence is futile? Do you agree with Doug that whoever is willing to use the most violence inevitably "wins any conflict? Can you think of a context in which winning by violence is ultimately harmful to the winner, or in which someone who dies can be said to have won?

    Science

  17. How open do you believe modern science is to phenomena that cannot be studied or replicated in a laboratory? Do you think contemporary scientists can be limited by their beliefs about material reality? Do you think there may be realities not yet observable or measurable with the instruments and methodologies available today? Can you find examples of cases where science has been held back in its efforts to explain an aspect of reality by the lack of sufficiently sensitive technology?
  18. Do you think we "pretty much know" now what the universe is like? Or do you think there is much we have yet to discover, much that might change our current view? What have been some of the great changes in the way science has explained aspects of the universe?

    The Mind

  19. Do you believe that some people are naturally more intelligent than others, or do you think that with the right teaching anyone could be an Einstein? Do you feel the same way about extraordinary athletic ability, extraordinary artistic ability?
  20. Do you believe humans are or could be capable of communicating with mental energy? Do you believe it is possible for humans to communicate with other life forms, with or without language? Can you find examples of such abilities?
  21. The Latin name for modern humans is Homo sapiens, which means intelligent, or thinking, man. Do you think human beings have used their intelligence primarily for good or, as Doug suggests in calling the human species Homo horribilis, to do harm?

About The Author:

Stephanie Tolan is also well-known as an advocate for extremely bright children. She co-authored the award-winning non-fiction book, Guiding the Gifted Child, and has written many articles about the challenges gifted "asynchronous" children and adults face as they find a way to fit into their world. She lectures throughout the country to audiences of parents, educators and counselors attempting to find ways to meet the children's needs. Her experiences with these "amazing, off-the-charts" young people inspired the themes of Welcome to the Ark and Flight of the Raven.

Mrs. Tolan currently lives on a little lake in a big woods in Charlotte, NC with her husband, one dog, one cat, two fish and plenty of outdoor creatures.

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2008

    BOOO

    if you are really weird and not normal you might like this book. for normal people-dont read it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    A new addition to my list of favorites

    I bought this book a few years ago and finally brought myself to read it. It looked interesting and original and I was not disappointed in this touching story about the world today and the children who inhabit it. I wish the ending had been a bit longer, although it is beautiful as is, and I wish, spoiler, that Doug and Miranda's relationship 'or lack there of' had been a bit more developed and gone a bit further. All in all, wonderful and recommended for children, teenagers, and adults alike.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2004

    Excelent and extraordinary

    I read this book a few years ago, and still have all the details tucked away in my mind. It's captivating and in a scence, 100% true.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2004

    I looove this book

    This book is so perfeclty written, the elequent writing and the inoventive writing styles with such in depth characters and intellegent banter is one of the best books I have ever read. I almost feel as if I have the gifts of my own, you get sucked into the world fictional or not.<b> YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2003

    Best Book Ever!

    This book was absolutly the best book I've ever read, no doubt about it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2003

    Breathtaking!

    The book IS a little slow at first, but yet you still fall into the plot--the characters are so dimensional the curiosity alone pulls you in with limitless committment. Truly alluring characters, blood-pumping, slow burning conflict, and a dose of reality make 'Ark' a worthy read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2003

    It took my breath away!

    This book was one of the best that i have ever read! It was so inspiring to believe that there are kids out in our world with such beautiful powers. I could not put the book down the first day I got it. Everyone should read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2002

    Amazing

    This is one of the most touching and amazing books that I have ever read. These children's quest is interesting and the book is so well written that it all seems so real. I recomend this book to people of all ages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2002

    Intense

    This book was so good. It even reflects the way some kids feel. Like they have feelings. This was one of the best books I've ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2001

    Extraordinarily intriguing!

    ¿ Welcome to the Ark¿ is a book about four teenagers, Miranda, Elijah, Doug and Taryn, who are child prodigies. All brought together in a mental institution. They each are introduced and described separately but slowly come together in a project called the ¿Ark¿. These four children and the two psychiatric doctors, acting as parental units, come together in a family setting. Miranda the linguist, Elijah the intelligent, Doug the math, music and computer genius and Taryn the psychic are shown the increasing amount of violence in today¿s world. The children decide that they are going to change all of it. However, when the doctor fears this as a liability, he quickly destroys the experimental program. What will happen to the young geniuses and their plan to change the world, as we know it. An interesting story with a writing style a little difficult to follow but un-like any other. The story contains things like Miranda¿s journal entries, Internet conversations and medical forms. This was a different way of introducing the characters and the plot. I enjoyed the book and say it is a must read for any teenager!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2001

    One of the Best Books I've Ever Read

    'Welcome to the Ark' is one of the best books I've ever read. Everything that happens, happens for a purpose, you won't be able to put it down until you're done, I know I couldn't. If you read this book I guarantee you'll love it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2001

    Excellent Book!!

    This book was the best book I've ever read! The story kept me interested and on the edge of my seat. In the end, the book still leaves a mystery that only you can answer. A must read for every teen!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2000

    My favorite book

    This book was AWSOME!! I swear it's my favorite book. It is a must read for all teens. I dont usually like to read, but once i found this book i couldnt put it down. You have to read this book you'll love it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2000

    Loved it!!!!!!!!!

    I am a member of the Ark! Awesome book. Couldn't put it down. What ever happened to Ellijah?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2000

    S.E.H Reveiws

    I felt that the book was phenominal just as the characters in this book. It had good begining, middle and an strange yet cool ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2000

    Great Book!

    Again, a wonderful book full of vivid descriptions. I was given this book to read and review by a teacher only 4 hours ago and I couldn't put it down. I is just an outstanding book with so much feeling that it's unbelievable. The charscter's are developed and everything seems so real. It pains your heart and then makes it sing 20 pages later. A rollercoaster of emotions. Ahhhhh....a book I won't soon forget.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 1999

    Great Book! :)

    This is a great book. I couldn't put it down well I was reading it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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