Narrated by two very different teens Leo, a poor, troubled dropout, and Bree, a rich girl rebelling against her sheltered life Wittlinger's (Hard Love) novel raises interesting issues, but ultimately its premise is too problematic. The novel opens as 17-year-old Leo marks the fourth anniversary of his sister's murder by her abusive boyfriend. After a violent fight with his alcoholic mother, Leo goes for a drive. Seeing scantily clad Bree, who's come from the neighboring rich town to find a bar and play pool, Leo decides she was "the one who was supposed to die," not his "nice girl" sister. He kidnaps Bree, blindfolds her and takes her to the basement below his apartment. Bree jabbers about her life, thinking if she becomes real to him, he won't kill her. As the night wears on, he finally opens up, too, and she realizes, "When you make yourself real to somebody, they become real to you too." Some of their conversations touch on thoughtful topics, from whether or not a girl should be able to walk down the street by herself ("Why shouldn't I be able to go someplace by myself if I want to? Why do I have to have a man along all the time?" she asks Leo) to how families deal with death (Bree had a sister who died as a child). But neither teen seems fully formed, so that Bree's bond with Leo, which results in her deciding not to turn him in, feels too creepy and unbelievable. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This well-written, intensely emotional novel is both riveting and thought-provoking. It weaves together the tales of two teens, Leo and Bree, and how their chance encounter changes their lives forever. On the night of their meeting, Leo flees his home and his deranged mother on the fourth anniversary of his older sister's brutal murder. Bree escapes her upper-class home and overbearing mother and boyfriend who have her life pre-planned without her input. Leo goes for a drive to clear his head, and Bree heads to the rough part of town to hang out at a bar where her socioeconomic status is unknown by the patrons. Leo's anger drives him to kidnap Bree as she walks down the streets of the run-down neighborhood while dressed not so innocently. He believes she deserves to die, unlike his kind and innocent sister. Leo blindfolds Bree and takes her to the basement of his home. There they share a night of unspoken fears and suppressed anger, ultimately telling one another their painful stories. With this connection and release, the process of healing begins for each young person. Wittlinger is frank in her use of language and descriptions of the murder of Leo's sister. Her words are unforgettable, and the strength demonstrated by her characters in the face of turmoil and sadness is remarkable. The novel encourages readers to share, to listen, to remember that we all experience the pain of the human condition. Through our willingness to disclose our hidden selves, we can find peace and renewal. 2002, Simon & Schuster,
Author of the Printz Award honor book Hard Love (Simon & Schuster, 1999/VOYA August 1999), Wittlinger describes this long night through the alternating voices of teenagers Leo and Bree. It has been four years since Leo's sister, Michelle, was murdered savagely by her boyfriend. His once-happy family is ruinedthe father is long gone, his mother has never recovered, and Leo himself is not doing too well either after dropping out of school to take care of his alcoholic mother. Bree, on the other hand, is a privileged and smothered high school senior who is trying not to attend the same college as her boyfriend and volunteers weekly at a local homeless shelter. Bree is out looking for independence and meaning when her life inevitably collides with Leo's on the anniversary of Michelle's murder. After having a particularly disturbing row with his mothershe flashes the crime scene photos and Leo threatens her with a knifeLeo ends up snatching Bree off the street. She is out searching for an adventurebut not this one. The long and grueling night mirrors the difficulties that Leo and Bree face in their own lives, but the outcome signals a positive change for them both. Wittlinger has a knack for creating interesting characters that captivate and hold attention. Fearing the worst for each of the likeable protagonists, readers will be unable to put this book down. Both reluctant and eager readers will appreciate the alternating voices and short chapters, and end up wondering what happens next. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).2001, Simon & Schuster, 128p, $15. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Bette Ammon SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
Gr 8 Up-Told from alternating points of view, this intense narrative reveals the inner workings of two 18-year-olds. On the anniversary of his sister's brutal murder by her boyfriend, Leo, frightened and enraged by his mother's drunken ravings and assault (she is convinced that all men are beasts), escapes from their apartment. Driving around, he is consumed by anger and despair. Memories of his father's desertion and his mother's growing mental instability haunt him. Pictures of Michelle's corpse lying in a pool of blood appear before his eyes. When he sees a young woman walking alone in her tight skirt and high heels, he concludes that this stranger should be dead, not Michelle. Bree wants freedom from her wealthy parents' expectations and from her controlling boyfriend's superiority. She feels trapped at home, but when Leo grabs her, puts a knife to her neck, and forces her into his car, fear takes over. As his hostage, talk is Bree's only weapon. Through their conversation, each teen discovers demons that they must confront, from making choices and handling grief to dealing with adversity and with the future. By the time morning rolls around, Leo and Bree have opened their hearts to one another. Wittlinger's dependable, solid character development mirrors that of her previous novels. With its strong, believable emotions and direct, clear writing, this novel will speak to young adult readers.-Gail Richmond, San Diego Unified Schools, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
On the night of the fourth anniversary of his sister Michelle's grisly murder by her abusive boyfriend, Leo's crazy mother has gotten out the photographs of Michelle's death. After threatening his mother and hearing Michelle's voice in his head, Leo believes that he can replace Michelle's death with that of a girl who really "deserves" it. Along comes Bree, dressed provocatively and looking for a bar in a bad part of town, all to find adventure and infuriate her controlling mother and boyfriend. With a knife at Bree's throat, Leo takes her to the basement of his apartment building, where the two spend a long night contemplating how they ended up in this situation and who they really are. Leo, who has had to quit school to support his dysfunctional family, and Bree, an affluent girl who has always let her family think for her, find that they share many life experiences. In only a brief moment of time, readers are taken on a compelling psychological journey. Although the characters sometimes slip into preaching about women's rights and men's feelings, this slim volume packs a punch. Wittlinger (Razzle, 2001, etc.)-always tops at hard-hitting, realistic fiction-delivers another story of teenagers' self-discovery in a difficult world. (Fiction. YA)