Mazer's compassion for adolescents in despair is clear ...and part of the reason for her many successes.
Exploring the aftermath of a family tragedy, this contemporary problem novel provides the intense psychological drama Mazer fans crave, but lacks the suspenseful edge of her After the Rain and Out of Control. The opening chapters will instantly command readers' sympathy and rapt attention, as narrator Sarabeth describes her young, widowed mother's heart attack and subsequent death. The pace slows considerably after the initial crisis has passed and the author focuses on the 13-year-old's misery. With Sarabeth's vision blurred by grief, readers will need patience to develop a clear sense of the minor characters, among them Sarabeth's loyal girlfriends, her new friend James and the adults who decide her future. As Sarabeth is placed in the overcrowded home of her mother's best friend and assigned a social worker, Mazer conveys the heroine's feelings of shock, numbness, loneliness and powerlessness with her usual authenticity. But there are few surprises here; from the moment Sarabeth explains that her parents were essentially disowned by their families, most readers will anticipate that an encounter with these previously unmet relatives will spur Sarabeth's emotional recovery. The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Exploring the aftermath of a family tragedy, this contemporary problem novel provides the intense psychological drama Mazer fans crave," wrote PW. "The strength of this novel lies in its intimate recognition of the way adolescents think and feel." Ages 10-up. (Nov.)
Beginning by offering readers a brief glimpse one rain-soaked night into thirteen-year-old Sarabeth's relationship with her mother, Mazer's newest book moves forward a few days to when Sarabeth's mother suddenly dies of a heart attack. Sarabeth then not only must come to terms with her mother's death but because she has no known relatives, she also must deal with determining where she will live. Her mother's best friend, Cynthia, and her husband, Billy, take Sarabeth in to their cramped apartment where she begins to cope with lifeunsuccessfully. It is not until the final third of the book that Sarabeth decides to seek out her mother's family, from whom her mother had been estranged when she was pregnant with Sarabeth. At this point, the pace quickens and the reader becomes interested in how this new family will fit into Sarabeth's life. In this follow-up to the popular and cherished Silver (Morrow, 1988/VOYA February 1989), Mazer does an admirable job describing Sarabeth's anguish, which can be connected with the five stages of grief identified by psychologists such as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, but there seem to be too many minor characters and subplots to really feel for Sarabeth. When she moves in with Cynthia and Billy, the strain it puts on their marriage is apparent, but there is much more to this story to understand exactly why Sarabeth feels she must run away. There is also more to Sarabeth's relationship with her new family that the author does not reveal, leaving the story seeming unfinished when Sarabeth returns to live with yet another of her mother's friends. Mazer's fans will seek out this sequel eagerly. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 224p, $15.95. PLB $15.89. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Denise Beasley SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
Since her father's death, Sarabeth and her mother have settled into a comfortable rhythm with one another. As a young teen, Sarabeth sometimes doesn't get her mother's "weird" passionslike the time she insisted they stand outside in the middle of a storm to drink the rain. When her mother dies, though, it is those very peculiarities that Sarabeth misses most. As she struggles to fit into school life and young adulthood, Sarabeth has to face being really alone for the first time in her life. Her difficult journey leads her in and out of people's lives. But her triumph is genuine when she discovers herself, love, and her place in the world. Anyone who has dealt with loss will identify with the natural internal dialogue Mazer skillfully shares through Sarabeth. Her story will move you through a series of emotions, but ultimately leave you with the courage to heal and to hopefor yourself and the world you love. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95 and $15.89. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Leslie Julian
Gr 5-9-The day after Jane Silver wakes her daughter at 2 a.m. to witness a shower and "drink rain for luck," the 30-year-old woman has a sudden fatal heart attack. With no close relatives to rely on, 13-year-old Sarabeth has to adjust to life without her mom and the only home she's ever known. The theme of death and renewal is not a new one, but Mazer's characters deal with the process in a realistic, heartrending manner. Readers will readily identify with the girl's struggle to adapt as she temporarily moves in with her mother's friend Cynthia and her family. Cynthia's husband continually refers to Sarabeth as "our boarder," making it obvious that she is not part of their family. Inevitably, Sarabeth reluctantly searches out the relatives whom she has never met, unsure of her welcome. These are the same people who had disowned her young parents when Jane became pregnant at age 16. Set in present-day Anytown, U.S.A., the novel quickly draws readers into Sarabeth's world. It is through her eyes that they are introduced to her mother, her friends, her mother's ex-boyfriend, Cynthia, as well as her distant (but surprisingly likable) relatives. Mazer combines gentle humor with serious relationship issues without being preachy or moralistic. Her novel is reminiscent of Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming (Atheneum, 1981), though it is more succinct. Memorable characters, solid writing, and short chapters make Girlhearts a good purchase for most libraries.-Susie Paige, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.