Without Tess

Without Tess

4.5 8
by Marcella Pixley
     
 

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Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can't live in the real world any

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Overview

Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can't live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess's battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Lizzie Cohen, 9, and her sister, Tess, 11, are incredibly close. They live in a world all their own, filled with selkies, magical toads, and horses with beautiful wings. When Lizzie tries to leave this fantastical world in favor of reality, Tess tries hard to keep her there. Her imagination becomes more and more delusional, and she becomes harmful to herself and others. She starves herself, claiming that she is immortal and doesn't need nourishment. Then she makes a decision that leaves Lizzie, five years later, struggling to confront the past through Tess's worn-out Pegasus Journal, full of poetry and disturbing images. With the help of the school psychologist and a childhood friend, Lizzie tries to find a way to let go of her guilt. Alternating between chapters of prose and poetry, the novel gives readers glimpses into the minds of both girls, balancing past and present and slowly revealing the entire story. The setting is a riverside town, and the pivotal events take place at the razor's edge of fall and winter, creating a chill of apprehension. Girls struggling with anorexia may benefit from reading about an issue that hits close to home, and anyone coping with harmful relationships, especially within the family, will relate to this lyrical, heartrending novel.—Kimberly Castle, Stark County District Library, Canton, OH
New York Times

Following up on themes raised in her well-received first novel, 'Freak,'…Marcella Pixley continues to explore the complexities of sibling loyalty.
BCCB

Pixley, who skillfully tackled another complicated sisterly relationship in Freak...takes a rather provocative step here: she sets up some alluring and imaginative magical conceits that will immediately catch the attention of fantasy readers just as they did Lizzie, and then mercilessly makes their appeal their danger.
author of Marcelo in the Real World Francisco Stork

Without Tess is a psychological thriller, a book of profound truth. Alternating between past and future, between loss and hope, Lizzie's story will grip you from beginning to end.
The New York Times

Following up on themes raised in her well-received first novel, Freak, . . . Marcella Pixley continues to explore the complexities of sibling loyalty.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Pixley, who skillfully tackled another complicated sisterly relationship in Freak . . . takes a rather provocative step here: she sets up some alluring and imaginative magical conceits that will immediately catch the attention of fantasy readers just as they did Lizzie, and then mercilessly makes their appeal their danger.
Children's Literature - Lisette Baez
The bond between sisters is one that is truly special, sometimes unexplainable. Tess and Lizzie shared that bond especially as young girls as they created a secret, make-believe world filled with all things fantasy. The girls' world included flying horses and people that turned into animals but mostly it had the appeal of escaping, the danger of losing oneself. As the girls grew up, Lizzie was ready to move on and put the make-believe world behind her, but Tess could not loosen her tight grip on fantasy. She began to sink deeper and deeper into the dark corners of her mind and her delusions eventually separated her completely from her family. Lizzie is desperate now as a teenager to find out what happened to Tess and embarks on a sad and emotionally taxing journey. With the help of a school psychologist, Lizzie begins to face and understand the cruelties of mental illness. The compelling plot and the multi-faceted characters really lend itself to the intrigue and sadness of the story. The reader will be torn between tears and smiles as this unconditional bond between two sisters unfolds. Reviewer: Lisette Baez

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429969826
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
454,791
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


FUNERAL LILIES
 
 
Every Wednesday I bring the battered Pegasus Journal into the high school guidance office. I sit in the rocking chair and lean back so it feels as if the world is holding its breath. I’ve grown to like this room. I like the painted masks, each one with its own hollow eyes. I like the wooden animals on the bookshelf: the camel, the stork, the wolf raising her face to the moon; but my favorite of all is the wooden horse that hangs from strings above my head. Its mane and tail are made of real hair, and it has red glass mirrors for eyes. It looks into the distance, its dusty head crooked. Tess would have loved this horse. She would have tried to convince me its eyes could cast a spell. I might have believed her when I was a little girl, but now I know better. There’s no such thing as magic. I’ll never let you go, Lizzie. No matter what happens to me, I’ll never ever let you go.
I always come five minutes early. I like to sit in the rocking chair and breathe away everything real. Bad grades and teachers who frown when they see me. Letters sent home in sealed envelopes. All the kids who give me distance like I’m some kind of human plague walking the hallway. I breathe away the silence of Isabella Amodeo, who has pitied me for almost five years and who continues to pity me, no matter how much time goes by. That first week, she delivered casseroles to our doorstep: warm food drowned in melted cheese and tomato sauce, meals Mamma could place on the table without looking. I remember sitting down to dinner, staring at the empty chair.
Of course, there were other kindnesses too. Floral arrangements delivered to the door from our teachers, bouquets of white funeral lilies so pungent they made me cross-eyed. I smelled nothing but funeral lilies that whole first month. Even outside the house—even when I was able to get away from the parade of relatives and neighbors, people who would look at me with sad eyes and then turn away—the smell of funeral lilies clung to my skin, my hair, my clothes. The scent was so strong I still smell it sometimes when I think about how it felt to be without her for the first time. So that now, sadness still smells like funeral lilies to me, and strangely, so does the feeling of loneliness, and so does the feeling of relief, because those were all things that I had never known before Tess left me just Lizzie all alone.
Dr. Kaplan walks into the office at 12:35 and sits at his desk. “Okay, kiddo,” he says, “just give me a second.” He finds my file and mumble-reads his notes from our last session. Then he settles back into his chair and waits for me to open Tess’s battered Pegasus Journal.
The whole thing with the Pegasus Journal was his idea. At our very first session, I told him about the journal filled with sketches and poems. I told him how I rescued it from her coffin the day of her funeral and carried it home in the inside pocket of my coat, how I couldn’t let them bury it, because I knew that these pages contained the real story of Tess and me and what happened when things changed. Even though I might not want to remember, burying the Pegasus Journal along with Tess would have been criminal. On that first Wednesday, he told me we had no choice. We had to use the Pegasus Journal to help me come to terms with what happened.
“Ready when you are,” Kaplan says, smiling.
It’s time to start. I open the Pegasus Journal. The pages are fragile, dog-eared, smudged with fingerprints and shadows. Here is a girl with worms in her hand. Here is an army of toads. Here is the profile of a drowning horse. But it is Tess’s face that gazes back at me. Tess’s eyes and wild red hair. I catch my breath. I remember the day she drew this. How she rubbed in shadows that made the cheek seem three-dimensional, the ears perfectly lobed like funeral lilies. How she used the back of her thumb to bring out the light in each eye so it looked as though the horse was gazing off into the distance somewhere, at a world unraveling, its tangled mane whipping around its face like the tangled hair of a wild girl who doesn’t even care enough to comb a hand through the snarls. The horse on the page opens its mouth. It is my sister’s voice coming up through the years. I’ll never let you go, Lizzie. No matter what happens to me, I’ll never ever let you go.

 
Copyright © 2011 by Marcella Pixley

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