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3.9 7
by Sonya Hartnett

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I am dying: it’s a beautiful word. Like the long slow sigh of a cello: dying. But the sound of it is the only beautiful thing about it.

As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years, which have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small, unforgiving town and distant, punitive parents ensure that he is never


I am dying: it’s a beautiful word. Like the long slow sigh of a cello: dying. But the sound of it is the only beautiful thing about it.

As life slips away, Gabriel looks back over his brief twenty years, which have been clouded by frustration and humiliation. A small, unforgiving town and distant, punitive parents ensure that he is never allowed to forget the horrific mistake he made as a child. He has only two friends - his dog, Surrender, and the unruly wild boy, Finnigan, a shadowy doppelganger with whom the meek Gabriel once made a boyhood pact. But when a series of arson attacks grips the town, Gabriel realizes how unpredictable and dangerous Finnigan is. As events begin to spiral violently out of control, it becomes devastatingly clear that only the most extreme measures will rid Gabriel of Finnigan for good.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In another eloquently written, heartrending novel, Hartnett (Thursday's Child; What the Birds See) plunges readers into the story of a young man facing the end of his tormented life. Through flashbacks and shifts in narrative voice, 20-year-old Anwell's recollections of the events that have brought him to this point slowly and painfully come to light. As a child, his distant and careless parents gave him the responsibility of looking after Vernon, his mentally disabled brother, and a terrible mistake in judgment results in Vernon's death. Anwell, now referring to himself as Gabriel, is paralyzed by grief and imagines his mother, in particular, is "making an island" of him. His only friends are a feral child named Finnegan with whom he makes a Faustian pact, and his dog, Surrender. As Finnegan begins to menace the town with arson, Gabriel must stand by and watch until he realizes he has in fact surrendered his soul. The pace of the novel is almost excruciatingly measured until the heart-stopping conclusion that, in retrospect, is manifest throughout the tale, attesting to the quality of the storytelling. Readers are left to grieve for an angel child, compassionately portrayed, engaged in a tug-of-war with evil and despair. Hartnett's novels may never reach the widest audience of young readers, but those who find her work will be moved by her gifted writing and the powerful changes her characters undergo. Ages 14-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the gripping cover showing a raging inferno to the blood-chilling revelation of the final chapter, this page-turner is a blistering yet dense psychological thriller. The similarities with Pete Hautman's Invisible (Simon & Schuster, 2005/VOYA August 2005) are eerie: outsider young men with mysterious friends; a fascination with fire; strained, past-the-breaking-point relationships with parents; shadowy hints of past tragedy; and romantic humiliation sparking the final conflagration of violence. Set in a nowhere town in Australia, this story of Gabriel portrays a young man recovering from an unstated illness under the care of his aunt. Gabriel's chapters alternate with those of his friend Finnigan, a wild child of the countryside. Gabriel recalls meeting Finnigan, their adventures with Gabriel's dog, Surrender, and his confrontations with his parents. He remembers his mentally handicapped brother, Vernon, whom Gabriel killed by locking him in an unused refrigerator. This act is both the horror of his history and the harbinger for the violence to come. It is a dark ride into the territory that only authors like Robert Cormier once dared to enter. Winner of the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction (presented by State Library of Victoria, Australia), the book echoes in some way another Australian award winner, Martin Zusak's brilliant I Am the Messenger (Knopf, 2005/VOYA February 2005) with its beautiful, often oblique, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately rewarding deeply layered prose that will attract readers who enjoy a challenge like moths to a flame. VOYA CODES: 5Q 2P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, definedas grades 10 to 12). 2006, Candlewick, 256p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Patrick Jones
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
As he lay dying, twenty-year-old Gabriel reflects on the only friend of his life. Finnegan is everything the gentle, introverted Gabriel is not: ferociously wild and free, untamed down to his matted hair and proudly flaunted rags. Chapters alternate the two points of view, from the boys' first meeting at ten through the years that their relationship effectively terrorizes the small, backwater Australian town of Mulyan. From Gabriel's first acknowledgment that at the age of seven he killed ("accidentally") his mentally retarded brother, the evidence builds. A siege of fires by a mysterious arsonist culminates in the torching of Gabriel's abusive father's car. But it is first love and the death of Surrender, Gabriel's beloved dog, that blows the lid off this taut psychological thriller. The Australian Hartnett writes beautifully and well, her prose often bordering on the poetic. Yet it is a gruesome, grim, painful story suitable only for mature readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-When Anwell was seven, he caused the death of his developmentally disabled older brother. Several years later, he meets a boy his age, a wild child named Finnigan, and the two forge an unorthodox yet formidable bond. As this psychological thriller gracefully unfolds, Anwell-who now calls himself Gabriel, in reference to the archangel-and Finnigan take turns narrating an array of possible facts, probable lies, and half-truths. That Anwell/Gabriel's parents are cold and repressive is probably true. That Finnigan ever intended to keep his promise to be Gabriel's friend is patently false. Through the years of the boys' adolescence, their small Australian town is plagued by arson. Anwell's father gathers a vigilante troop to ward away the firebug while his son curries favor with the local cop by telling him when and where the vigilantes are headed. The boys share a hound named Surrender; he is a thief and marauder, not unlike at least one of his owners. As this stew of unhappiness, mischief, and outright criminality unwinds-apparently while young Gabriel lies on his deathbed-readers come to realize that he is schizophrenic. Whether his avenging efforts truly come to murder, in the form of patricide, isn't crystal clear. But it doesn't need to be: the plot is relentless, just as Finnigan's efforts to torture Gabriel and Gabriel's efforts to quell Finnigan appear to be in the end.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A literary psychological thriller, hauntingly told, of a lonely, ostracized boy who "since childhood had been building a wall meant to protect [him] from the worst of the harm." Anwell, renamed Gabriel, "the messenger, the teller of astonishing truths," is 20 years old and dying of an unnamed illness. Through flashbacks, and from alternating perspectives, Hartnett's grim, beautifully written tale of adolescent yearnings gone awry gradually unfolds. Isolated in a home with punitive, repressive parents, trapped in a country town that "has as many eyes as a fly," where he can never live down a fatal mistake he made when he was seven, Gabriel makes a secret, binding boyhood pact with Finnigan, an unpredictable gypsy-child, in which he surrenders his right to do wrong, and after which unsolved violent incidents occur. The reader is caught by the many layers of mystery, and by the resilient lyricism, the powerful imagery. The clues piece together masterfully, as what was set up as a complex friendship between two boys and their beloved dog evolves into a chilling story of love, guilt, revenge and sorrow. Sophisticated young readers will be awed by the delicate, measured, heartbreaking portrait that emerges. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Gardners Books
Publication date:
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Moke saw her standing at the end of the driveway and barked to alert Satchel. He had wandered from the clothesline to the chicken coop and into the old stables, but he came out and shielded his eyes against the glare of the setting sun. Chelsea was loitering at the side of the road, looking like she would bolt if she saw any hint of movement within the house she was watching intently. She was shy because she drove the school bus, the job that William used to do, but people were disturbed by William’s strangeness and frightened by his reputation, and Satchel knew Chelsea’s hesitation was anchored in that fear. It bothered Satchel when he saw people react this way to his father, who was never impolite, who had no mean streak in him, who was not a fighter or a drinker. But he understood, too, that there glittered in William’s eyes a cheery, jeery sort of madness, that his stiff, shuffling method of walking spoke of a mind that had lost its fluidity. People were wary of William -- Satchel, sometimes, was wary of him -- because William was crazy, and no one could expect him to be treated the same as everybody else.

Moke’s barking made Chelsea snap her head in their direction, and Satchel waved to her. She scurried up the driveway and as she got closer he saw she was carrying a large softbound book, the cover of which bore scribble. "Hi," she said, blinking fast. "I was wondering if I could talk to you?"


"I won’t stay long --I just need a minute -- I’m not disturbing you, am I? Tell me if I am, and I’ll go."

"I’m not doing anything" . . . . He stepped backward into the shadows of the stables, and she followed him to the edge of dimness, where she sat on the barrel of chicken feed and Satchel leaned against a wall.

"I’ve been thinking about that dog you saw," she began. The light flashed off her glasses as she talked, and flicked the walls like lightning.

"The stray one at the mountain, I mean."

Satchel nodded, and watched as she swiped through the book’s pages until she reached one whose corner she had folded firmly down. She placed her finger on a patch of color among the writing and asked, "Did it look anything like that?"

He came nearer to look at the picture and she wriggled sideways to give him room. She smelled, he noticed, like lavender: his mother had some powder that made her smell the same. The picture was a coat of arms, and on either side of the central shield were two rampant, stylized, bizarre-looking dogs. "They’re not the right color," he said immediately. "The dog at the mountain was tan, not gray."

"Maybe that’s because the reproduction is bad. Look at their heads. Look at their ears. Look at their tails -- smooth, like a cat’s. Look at the stripes on their backs."

Satchel frowned at the image. "I suppose," he said. "I suppose you’d say they were close. The stripes are right, at least."

Chelsea sucked in her breath, and Satchel looked at her. His hands were on his knees and his face was level with hers, and he could see shallow pits in her skin, the war wounds of her ongoing battle with acne. "Don’t you know what those dogs are?" she asked. "Haven’t you ever seen these animals before?"

He shook his head. "What are they?"

"Satchel, they’re thylacines. This is the Tasmanian coat of arms. Those animals are Tasmanian tigers."

He stared at her, and she stared back at him. She had dug her teeth into her lip and her eyes were surreally huge behind her glasses. It made him laugh.

"Tasmanian tigers are extinct," he said.

"I know," she whispered.

"They’re extinct. So it could not have been a Tasmanian tiger. And we aren’t in Tasmania, either."

"I know," she repeated. "But look at the picture, Satchel. Look at it."

He wanted to laugh again, to giggle with the absurdity of her seriousness, but while she’d endured one scoffing nobly, she seemed prepared to be offended by a second, so he did as she asked, and looked. He took the book from her, and looked harder. He tried to imagine the drawn animals alive, fleshed out and leaping through the undergrowth, and the resemblance was there. It was strange, and left him, for a moment, with nothing sensible to say. He flipped the book to see its cover and found it was one of Miles Piper’s school texts.

"Is there anything in here about tigers?" he asked.

"No. It’s just a history book. But I was thinking that, when I take the bus to town tomorrow, I could go to the library and try to find something. If you want me to, I mean."

Satchel peered at the picture. The similarity was still there. The printed beasts looked partly cat, partly dog. They were more muscular and thickset than the lanky creature he had seen, but their backs were slashed with stripes from their shoulders to their tails, stripes that reminded him of the splits in his mother’s palms. He closed the book and put it down quickly, as if it had become suddenly hot to hold. "It wouldn’t be true," he said.

"I know. Thylacines have been extinct for years. For years and years and years. And we don’t live in Tasmania."

"It was just a dog that looked like those things."

"Yeah, I know. But I can go to the library tomorrow, if you want me to."

He glanced at her, at her small, upturned, pleading face, the stone-colored eyes gazing at him as if he wielded some kind of power. He couldn’t remember anyone ever looking at him like that, and it was embarrassing. Her attention was hungry, draining. "I don’t mind," he told her brusquely. "Go, if you want to."


Meet the Author

SONYA HARTNETT is the acclaimed author of THURSDAY'S CHILD, WHAT THE BIRDS SEE, STRIPES OF THE SIDESTEP WOLF, and several other novels - the first written when she was just thirteen. She has won many prestigious awards for her work, including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Sonya Hartnett lives in Australia.

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Surrender 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Chancie More than 1 year ago
Could have been a cool story/concept, but it was way wordier than it needed to be, making it painful to try to read, and the story itself didn't make a lot of sense and felt cliche and predictable. Didn't like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JakeTheAuthor More than 1 year ago
This was a masterpiece of a novel. It was incredibly well written and sophisticated. There are some rather cruel scenes, and this isn't good for kids under 10. A 10-year-old should be allowed to read this. The ending is perfect. It's a little confusing, though. (My second recommendation is the first book in a series. Read the whole series.
Karneval More than 1 year ago
I love Finn and Anwell so much. The story well written and had wonderful imagery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
What can you say about something as amazingly done as this book. Outstanding, excellent, amazing...these words don't even describe it! This is truely an amazing book that I think is good for the mature reader. It was so confusing until the end then it all makes sense it's simply genious. To sum it up, read the dang book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has no words to describe it. I rarely find a decent book to read and I'm glad I picked this one up. I highly recomend it. It left me with a feeling that I cannot describe. While reading I was slightly confused about what was happening but overall, it was worth the confusion and Surrender has a place on my shelf for good.