The opening chapters give little hint of the intensity of Jocelyn's (How It Happened in Peach Hill) exquisitely honed novel. Soon-to-be-high school junior Natalie and her friends like to play "Would you..."-a game exemplified by the book's first lines: "Would you rather know what's going to happen? Or not know?" Abruptly everything changes: Natalie's older sister, Claire, is struck by a car and rendered comatose. Jocelyn maintains a measured pace as the next few days unfold: Natalie watches her mother numb herself with tranquilizers, her father grow angry and look for someone to blame. Although the plot line sounds like that of a standard weeper, the author resists the urge to magnify emotions. Natalie reacts honestly, neither beautifully nor nobly-she is initially repulsed when a nurse asks her to massage Claire's grossly swollen feet; she lashes out at a boy who already (and needlessly) feels guilty. The light touch with which Jocelyn handles her difficult material is best seen when Claire is declared brain-dead and taken off life support: the humanity in the author's treatment affords the reader a sense both of grief and of peace. Ages 14-up. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
In a moment, life changes tragically. Natalie's much-loved older sister Claire is hit by a car, and in that moment the beautiful, smart, athletic girl is destroyed. This is Natalie's story of these few days. Before the accident, the small town summer life is so ordinarykids hanging out, keeping one another company, doing slightly risky things, but just filling out the days of work and play and boring family life. When that telephone call comes and Natalie and her parents rush to the emergency room to find a brain-injured Claire, life is suddenly larger-than-life: every emotion, every memory, every relationship, every last effort to make contact with the still-alive Claire. I recently reviewed another novel about a comatose teenager, Jacquelyn Mitchard's All We Know of Heaven, so I am struck by how differently a similar theme can be handled by good writers. While Mitchard's book made me weep, Jocelyn's book made me think carefully about life and death, and while I hate to use the word entertaining in this context, I can't think of another way to describe the witty conversations, the awkward gaffes, the quirky, realistic details. Any of us who have known grief also know how little details can suddenly seem funny, or ridiculous, or heartbreakingJocelyn and her characters are totally convincing. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
VOYA - Mary Arnold
Natalie is a typical younger sister, equal parts admirer and rival with beautiful Claire. Their last summer together before Claire goes to college also looks to be typical - summer jobs, hanging with friends, late-night whispers as they wonder how their family dynamic will change. No one anticipates that a split second will alter their lives profoundly and irrevocably when Claire, distraught over a break-up, stumbles into the path of a car. Suddenly Nat's game of "would you," with options that are not options at all, morphs into a poignant list of "things I will never be," ending with "an aunt." Natalie's account of the emotional toll on herself, her parents, friends, and family is all the more gripping for its natural, honest adolescent voice. She wears Claire's black "thingy" to Intensive Care, and is shattered by the sight of her father "bawling out of control," and the knowledge that "we are broken . . . there is never only one broken person." Brief chapters and telling details illuminate new, difficult truths in the scant days between the accident and what will now forever be After Claire, and Natalie's voice will resonate with readers for a long time. Reviewer: Mary Arnold
School Library Journal
Gr 8-11- Natalie and Claire are more than sisters; they're also friends. Only two years apart, they've always shared secrets, clothes, and a bedroom, and Natalie can't imagine what it's going to be like in the fall when Claire goes away to college. Only Claire doesn't go away. At the beginning of the summer, she's struck by a car and suffers massive head trauma. The next time Natalie sees her is at the hospital. There are tubes snaking in and out of her swollen body and there's a crisscrossing of stitches on her shaved head. This is not Claire's story, but Natalie's. It takes place over the course of 12 days of grief and coping, and continuing to live when the unimaginable happens. Natalie, her friends, and her family are well delineated, but as the story is told from Natalie's point of view, hers is the most complete portrayal. Jocelyn captures a teen's thoughts and reactions in a time of incredible anguish without making her overly dramatic. Readers will fly through the pages of this book, crying, laughing, and crying some more.-Heather E. Miller, Homewood Public Library, AL
Sisters Claire and Natalie share a room, clothes and secrets until an accident separates them forever. Pretty and popular, Claire's in a "perpetual good mood" as she anticipates leaving for college. Although Natalie's busy with her summer job as a lifeguard and hanging out with her friends, she feels as though Claire's abandoning her to face 11th grade on her own. Then Claire goes to meet her boyfriend, is hit by a car and ends up on life support in the ICU. Natalie relates the events in the week leading up to and following Claire's accident in the present tense; this device is particularly effective as she describes the profound shock, disbelief and grief as she, their parents and their friends try to cope with the reality of Claire's situation. Afraid to imagine life without her sister, Natalie's honest enough to know Claire's chances of survival are slim. The narrative's strength is in its candor: At one point Natalie sees Claire's new laptop and thinks it will be hers now, then instantly feels remorse. A realistic and very credible account of how one family's life is inexplicably and unexpectedly shattered. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
"It is difficult to overstate the brilliance of Would You...."
— The Globe and Mail
"...[an] exquisitely honed novel...."
— Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
"The narrative's strength is in its candor.... A realistic and very credible account of how one family's life is inexplicably and unexpectedly shattered."
— Kirkus Review
Read an Excerpt
Would you rather know what's going to happen? Or not know?
"When did you become so sunny?" I ask. "You're in this perpetual good mood. Have you seen my other green flip-flop?"
Claire laughs. "I feel like . . . I feel like there's promise." She kicks my flip-flop out from under a heap of clothes on the floor. "It's summer. But that isn't even the best of it. I'm going to college in what, seven weeks?"
"Don't remind me. Abandoning me to face eleventh grade without your protection. Stranding me with Mom and Dad."
"Aw, Nat, don't worry." She comes over and slides her arm across my back. "You'll come for weekends sometimes. It'll be great."
"Great for you." When I think about Claire leaving,
I want to throw up. We've been sharing a room since I was born. How can our life be reduced to occasional weekends?
"I have this roar in my head," she says. "Of . . . of anticipation. That it's all just starting. Stuff I don't even know about."
"Could you be any more corny?"
She ignores me, putting on mascara. They should use her eyelashes to advertise mascara.
"Where are you going tonight?" I ask.
"Movies. With Joe-boy and Kate and Mark."
"Did you fix things with Kate?"
"As long as I ignore her massive flirtation with Joe, and her relentless need to be more attractive than I am, she's the best and we're tight. Where are you going tonight?"
"Nowhere," I say. "There's nothing to do here. Summer just started and it's already boring. And so effing hot. I'll just meet everybody, I guess."
"Mwa," she says, kissing air as she grabs her bag.
They're already there when I get to the Ding-Dong, except Zack, who doesn't finish at the DQ till nine. Audrey looks pissed off, but she's still on duty. It bites to wait on your friends.
"French fries," I tell her. "Gravy on the side."
Leila is scrunched in the corner of the booth with her feet up on the seat, no matter how many times Audrey tells her, Get your stinking feet off the seat, I'll get fired if my friends mess up in here.
I slide in next to Carson. He's building a log cabin out of toothpicks. "Hey."
"Hey," they say.
Leila is filing her thumbnail with her teeth. Audrey sets down the fries, gravy poured over.
"Does the phrase on the side mean anything to you?"
"He wasn't listening. Just eat them, okay? Really."
"I hate using a fork for French fries," I remind her. "I like dipping."
"Get over it," says Audrey.
"They're good tonight." Carson pinches a fry. "They don't taste like cigarette butts."
"Would you rather have French fries swimming in gravy or no gravy again for the rest of your life?" says Leila, picking up her fork.
"Lame," says Carson.
"You do better." Leila flicks a crumb at his toothpick masterpiece.
"Mmmm, the point is to have options that are not options. The point is to repulse."
"Not necessarily," I say. "Moral challenge is good."
"Gravy counts as moral challenge?"
Some Good Ones from Before
Would you rather eat a rat with the fur still on or eat sewage straight from the pipe?
Would you rather have your father sing at the supermarket or your mother fart in the principal's office?
Would you rather be a murderer who gets away with it and has to live with the guilt or someone who is kidnapped by a wacko and doesn't have the courage to kill the kidnapper?
Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?
Would you rather have a piece of rice permanently attached to your lip or a fly always buzzing around your head?
Would you rather be so fat you need a wheelchair to get around or so skinny your bones snap if someone bumps into you?
Would you rather die or have everyone else die?
From the Hardcover edition.