In her tightly constructed and captivating first adult novel, bestselling YA author Shepard (the Pretty Little Liars series) explores a family's biological and emotional interconnectedness-for better or for worse. When 15-year-old Summer Davis is told by a substitute biology teacher that "DNA makes up everything inside you," and that "nothing else matters... you can't escape your parents and they can't escape you," the silken threads that she imagines link her to her vanished mother become something more like shackles and chains as her mentally ill father's slow decay continues and eventually lands him in an institution. Summer clings to the hope that her father will get better while simultaneously experimenting with ways to escape the gloomy life she's inherited; her path eventually leads to the genetics lab at NYU, but the opportunity to pursue her own dreams is undermined by her father, whose deeply hidden secrets begin to trickle out and eat away at the family's foundation. It's complicated, rewarding and full of heart, and Shepard creates a rich reading experience in shying from simple answers and happy endings. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In the early 1990s, eighth grader Summer Davis cares for her father, Richard. Mentally fragile after a deadly accident during his own teen years, which was triggered by a terrible secret that he can't shake, Richard is destroyed when his wife abandons her family. A trip to Pennsylvania to stay with Richard's quirky Aunt Stella while they bury Richard's mother cracks open the doors to more family secrets and a chance encounter with a boy who makes a powerful impression. Over the years, Summer is left to manage the unmanageable. A brilliant, budding geneticist, she walks away from a once-in-a-lifetime fellowship, not to mention a life of her own, to care for her father until his downward spiral lands him in a sanitarium. Unable to abandon her caregiver role, Summer moves in with Stella, who's dying of cancer, thus bringing Summer full circle with the shards of her heritage and the dangling threads of ambition and thwarted romance. In piercingly beautiful language that tears the heart like shrapnel, Shepard shows us how summer is forced to come to grips with the knowledge that love just might not be a deadly weapon or fatal illness. Outstanding first adult fiction by young adult novelist Shepard (of the "Pretty Little Liars" series).
Beth E. Andersen
YA author Shepard's debut adult novel (Pretty Little Liars, 2008, etc.) concerns a girl who feels trapped by her genetics. When an eccentric teacher introduces Summer Davis to the concept of determinate DNA, she becomes obsessed with the idea that her genes permanently tie her to her mentally unstable father and to her mother, who abandoned the family. As her father descends into mental illness, Summer becomes the family caretaker, putting off her career in genetics to care for him and then for her great aunt Stella. The dusty, Wal-Mart town of Cobalt, Pa., where Stella lives, is Summer's father's hometown, and the scene of an emotional secret he has kept from her her entire life. The narrative craftily and eloquently builds the suspense. Even though Summer's inability to step into an independent life can be frustrating, she is a deftly drawn and sympathetic protagonist, and her complications are achingly real. As Summer falls into a routine with the quirky, sagacious Stella-a gem of a character-Stella forces her to emerge from her morose fatalism and start learning that she can choose her own life path. The story follows Summer from a high schooler to a young woman in an emotionally raw narrative arc that does not shy away from difficult questions nor force happy endings. The author also offers a moving portrait of New York City in the pre- and post-9/11 years. A quietly captivating novel.
"Tightly constructed and captivating....The Visibles is complicated, rewarding and full of heart. Shepard creates a rich reading experience in shying from simple answers and happy endings." Publishers Weekly
"The Visibles is that rarest of accomplishments a novel that pulls you into its world, then just...keeps...getting...better. Sara Shepard writes with a grace and ease, but don't be deceived the big stuff is in here: coming of age; New York in the nineties; the complications of family and friendship; illness and ambition; hope and disappointment and redemption. On every page you'll find an architect's control, a painter's eye, a dancer's elegance, and, best of all, an unending well of generosity. The Visibles is what you want from fiction. Enjoy." Charles Bock, author of Beautiful Children
"Summer Davis's childhood and its mysteries will entrance you. Within moments of beginning to read her story, she will become your closest friend and most trusted confidante. You will want to immerse yourself in her story and grow up with her and discover life with her over and over again." Ben Schrank, author of Miracle Man and Consent
"Sara Shepard delivers a tight mystery disguised as an arresting coming of age story. Her narrator is sharp, edgy, and sad just like all the best ones are. Summer Davis sneaks up on you, gets into your head, and stays there." Amy Bryant, author of Polly