The feisty, remarkably resourceful girl who came to Jonah's aid in Jonah the Whale and How He Became Incredibly Famous takes center stage in this heartrending novel. After Alyssa's sister is stillborn, her mother slips into a deep depression and her father moves the family from their farmhouse to a cramped apartment in North Haven, Conn. When her father later tells her that he is moving out of the apartment, the 10-year-old announces that she is replacing her given name with Blister, "Like when your shoes are too tight." At her new school, Blister "assume[s] a role of invented self-confidence," but fails to break into the fifth-grade cliques, despite reassuring her parents that she is making many new friends. On a weekend visit to her father's apartment, the child opens a suitcase stashed under his bed and discovers a cache of women's clothing and jewelry, some of which she takes with her when she leaves. How Blister uses these purloined items to seek revenge on her father and to impress her classmates enhances the poignancy of Shreve's narrative, which offers razor-sharp insight into the mind of this troubled yet resilient heroine. With a tightly woven plot and entirely convincing characters (Blister's supportive and eccentric grandmother is a standout), Shreve again proves herself an inspired and inspiring storyteller. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Being a ten-year-old girl has its own special set of struggles. Add to them the stillbirth of a much-longed-for sibling, your mother's nervous breakdown, the move to a new place and the unraveling of your parents' marriage, and you'll understand why Alyssa Reed changes her name to "Blister." After being pinched and squished in so many ways, she builds a callus over her heart and decides she'll never rely on anyone but herself again. She reinvents herself, becoming a cool-as-ice loner with wild clothing that she steals from her father's new girlfriend. By being someone else, someone different, she can ignore all the sorrow in her life. This sounds like one of the "problem novels" of the 1980s, but it is as different from that genre as fast food is from cuisine. Shreve's prose is spare but choice, with characters so memorable that young readers will clamor for a sequel. She is particularly keen-eyed about the interaction among preteen girls, both the "in" crowd and its satellites. 2001, Arthur A Levine/Scholastic, $15.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer:Donna Freedman
The hot-pink jacket, like the self-chosen name "Blister," proves just the right cover for Alyssa Reed, the trusty, spunky ten-year-old whose very sense of self endures flames of sadness, anger, and injustice. Devastated by a stillborn child, Alyssa's parents cannot rekindle their troubled marriage; her father leaves, and her mother falls more deeply into depression. They haven't the room in their own sufferings to recognize Alyssa's pain, and Alyssa sees them as more like the dependent child she'd like to be rather than as the grown-ups on whom she can depend. At least she has Daisy G., a seventy-year-old dancing grandmother who lives her life as fully as possible despite her own broken heart. Although she treats misery by cooking comfort foods, Daisy G. is no warm, cuddly grandma. Wearing lycra and stretching before a full-length mirror, she speaks tautly and truthfully to Alyssa and gives the girl a vision of herself as elastic "instead of resilient." Susan Shreve transposes the child's difficulties at home into the challenges of fitting in at a new school. The situation allows Alyssa to reinvent herself first by changing her name, then by wearing her father's girlfriend's provocative clothing, and finally by trying out for cheerleading. The persona ultimately proves as ill-fitting as the clothing, and, like the fresh skin growing under a blister, a robust self surfaces when her excellence at cheerleading loses to a rigged popularity contest. Although the repeated use of hyphen to set off phrases seems meant to capture Alyssa's voice, this artifice distracts somewhat from the author's genuine accomplishment of shaping a character who feels, thinks, and acts with disarming familiarity.2001, Arthur A. Levine, 128 pages, Mercier
Gr 4-6-When Alyssa Reed's long-awaited sister is born dead, the 10-year-old hides in the willow tree in the yard. This is only the beginning of her isolation. Her mother is deeply depressed and is briefly institutionalized. Her father, who had been spending more and more time away from the family before the pregnancy, decides to leave, after moving his wife and daughter from their old farmhouse into a small apartment. Alyssa changes her name to Blister, and she sets out to reinvent herself in order to become one of the popular fifth-grade girls at her new school. When she finds a suitcase full of women's clothes and jewelry under her father's bed, she takes them and makes them part of her new image, hoping to force her father to admit to having a girlfriend. Although nothing-even her attempts to make the cheerleading squad-goes according to plan, Blister constantly proves that she is "elastic," and bounces back. Shreve pulls no punches in this all-too-believable story. The sharp, detailed descriptions capture the youngster's every thought and emotion as she realizes the ineffectuality of her parents and struggles to gain some control over her life. Although she takes center stage, all of the characters are perfectly drawn, from her helpless, despondent mother to her eccentric, spirited grandmother, who teaches the child the importance of resilience. While this is definitely not a light, entertaining story, readers will find themselves cheering for a remarkable girl they will not soon forget.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A ten-year-old girl goes about the task of re-creating herself when both her parents fail her utterly in this exploration of the backstory of a character first introduced in Shreve's Jonah, the Whale (1998). Alyssa Reed has always thought her life was just about perfect, until the truth of her parents' failing marriage confronts her starkly after her eagerly awaited little sister is stillborn. In fairly short order, her family moves away from their idyllic country home-and her delightfully feisty grandmother, a septuagenarian dance champion-to a featureless apartment complex in the city, and then her father moves out altogether, leaving Alyssa alone with her severely depressed mother. It is then that she christens herself "Blister": "Since she couldn't depend on her mother and father, who had turned out to be made of breakable glass, then she'd depend on herself. After all, she was ‘elastic' . . . " Blister's self-possession and sometimes crystalline awareness of the way of the world ("You decide we move, and so we move. That's control, and I don't have it," she tells her father) seem out of step with her previously sheltered existence and quite un-childlike, but her essential struggle to regain control over a life that's turned upside-down has the ring of truth. Elaborate (and psychologically perfect) daydreams form the foundations of plots to separate her father from her new girlfriend and to achieve fifth-grade popularity via cheerleading. They then fizzle when they confront reality, but the reader gets the sense that Blister won't be down for long. Spunky and resolute, Blister is a character many readers will understand intimately. (Fiction. 8-12)