Grab sets her debut novel in a sleepy upstate New York town (named, ironically, after the sophisticated Czech capital to which it bears no resemblance), where Manhattan native Matisse Osgood and her family relocate after her father's Parkinson's disease worsens. Embittered by the move, Matisse is often judgmental, and her preconceived ideas of country living prevent her from appreciating the new surroundings. Her new high school presents a cast of familiar characters: angsty outcast Violet, popular but goodhearted Marco, cruel cheerleader Jennifer and overalls-wearing but intellectual Hal, whom Matisse summarily dubs "the hick." When Jennifer spreads a vicious rumor about Matisse's dad, Matisse must confide in those she initially dismissed. Grab does not fully develop some of the more interesting aspects of the novel, such as the flirtatious lunchroom interactions between Violet and Marco, and Hal's troublesome relationship with his parents over his goals. Instead, she focuses tightly on depicting Matisse's withdrawal from those closest to her and the family tensions caused by severe illness. While predictable, Grab's sympathetic portrayal may comfort those affected by sickness and loss. Ages 12-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This is Grab's first novel, and since she is from upstate New York herself, she describes the setting, as newcomer Matisse finds it, with acute understanding. Matisse is the daughter of successful artists and they previously lived in Manhattan together. But some years ago, her father fell when he was working on a large sculpture, which made his Parkinson's disease much worse. Now, as Matisse is finishing up high school, the family abruptly moves to little Prague, New York, to give her father a place to recover away from the sophisticated art society they know so well. Matisse tries to find a way to survive, making some new friends, but her larger problem, really, is facing the truth about her father's disabilities caused by his disease. She hides these facts from her new acquaintances and from her old friends in Manhattan, and worse, she hides the truth from herself, or tries to. This repression of her feelings makes for a total change in her personality, and it is essential that she find a way to process what is going on in her family, just as her father must accept his illness. The theme of learning to understand and accept a parent's illness is the most important one here; the resettlement issues are also interesting, but secondary to the larger dilemma for Matisse, of accepting her father's disabilities. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
Matisse's mother and father are both well-known artists, and Matisse has grown up in New York City attending gallery openings and shopping at trendy stores. Now as her father's Parkinson's disease worsens, her parents decide to move to a small town in upstate New York, where life may be less stressful. A city girl to the core, Matisse is sure there can be only hicks and homespun hokum in Prague, an impression that is strengthened by her neighbor Hal's penchant for wearing overalls to school. But when her father's symptoms worsen and cheerleader-queen Jennifer, fearing that Matisse covets her boyfriend, starts a rumor that her dad is a drug addict, Matisse finds that small-town friends can be the best. Family communication-or lack of it-is the heart of this story, which has a longer, more thoughtful book lurking in it. Her father's depression, her mother's denial of her husband's condition and Matisse's rejection of them both are telegraphed to the reader rather than allowed to grow out of the story. Small-town life is caricatured-Hal works for "Farmer Dalton" and a hayride is the biggest social event of the year. There are appealing secondary characters, such as would-be-rebel Violet; quirky, football-captain Marco; and gentle Hal, but the author leaves their stories dangling. The writing is above average, leaving the reader wishing for the more leisurely, less-predictable work that Grab is capable of producing. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
Gr 6 Up- Matisse Osgood is a Manhattanite with a superiority complex. When her father's illness necessitates a move to rural, upstate New York, she drips with contempt for her new town and its residents. Her initial reaction to her new high school is a bit clichéd as she surrounds herself with attitude and befriends the most radical and outrageous of Prague's students. But, after making a bad choice in a boyfriend, taking on the clique and emerging triumphant, and winning the respect of the entire school, Matisse becomes a likable, open-minded young woman. The story offers a change from the typical heartbreaking or depressing teen novels, but the ending is almost too good to be true. Still, the story provides a safe and positive alternative to teens who are hoping for happy endings in their own lives.-Debra Banna, Sharon Public Library, MA
A Manhattan teen lives upstate while adapting to her father's illness. Sixteen-year-old Matisse Osgood's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago, and she quickly grew tired of the false sympathy and prying questions from her Upper West Side classmates. After her family relocates to upstate New York, Matisse embraces dual strategies of denial and repression regarding her dad's condition. The high-school rumor mill soon starts up, leaving Matisse to evaluate both school friendships and familial relationships. Coupling City love with awkward rural adventures, Grab creates a teen-driven Green Acres dramatic comedy. Equally concerned for her parents and for herself, Matisse allows readers to feel both sick for her and of her. Touching reminiscences establish the father-daughter relationship while accommodating the natural tension between adolescents and adults. Secondary characters are thinly developed, however, and Matisse's quick dismissal of neighbor-boy Hal comes across as cheap plot manipulation. These flaws notwithstanding, an excellent narrative voice, touching emotional connection and playful rural activities will take readers on their own relaxing hayride. (Fiction. YA)