If I were just looking at books in the library, I would pick up this one if only because of the title. Overall the book was written very well, but it was somewhat disturbing. It is very serious and I would not recommend it for anyone under sixteen. The issues are hard to deal with even just from a book, especially the psychological problems of the father and the physical attraction from him to his daughter. I think that the book portrays the children's point of view very well. The ending was disappointing because it seemed as if the author just wanted to get it over with. Everything happened in the last few pages as everyone confessed and moved on, kind of clichéd. Other than that, it was a good book, but definitely not one to be taken lightly. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Harcourt, 176p, $17. Ages 15 to 18. Reviewer: Rebekah Carty, Teen Reviewer
Although I admire Julius Lester's work, I didn't want to read this book. A good friend was murdered by her husband, leaving three children orphans. It was too close to home. I opened the book anywayand couldn't put it down. Twelve-year-old Jeremy and fourteen-year-old Jenna tell the story in alternating chapters. Their voices are compelling, drawing the reader into the drama, never letting up as they pass through stages of disbelief, grief, and the slow process of putting their lives in some sort of order. Jeremy is deep and lovable from the start; Jenna's flaky façade slowly crumbles to reveal an adolescent who might grow into someone special. Fueling this passage is the mystery of why their father acted as he did. The conclusion is believable. It is believable because Lester is such a fine and caring writer. 2001, Silver Whistle/Harcourt, $17.00. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2001: Jenna, age 14, and Jeremy, age 12, knew their artist mother and their psychologist father weren't getting along. But nothing prepares them for the shocking report that their father has shot their mother to death outside the stationery store in their small college town. Reeling from the news, the children react in different ways. Jenna, always her father's favorite, is at first willing to believe his story that her mother was having an affair, and that he acted out of passionate jealousy. But Jeremy, much more tied to his mother, spends a lot of time in her studio, where he finds her diary. In it Jeremy discovers the surprising truth behind his father's murderous rage, and he reveals it dramatically at his father's trial. Through the autumn, winter, and spring, Jenna and Jeremy try to come to grips with the loss of their parents, one dead and one in jail. Jenna bonds with Karen, her father's ex-wife, and learns some secrets about Karen's past, while Jeremy relies on a kind teacher and the family of a little girl who befriends him. In the end, they are learning to make new lives for themselves and to somehow live with their losses, though their lives have been forever altered. With a title that could be taken from the tabloids, this new novel by the author of Pharaoh's Daughter and many other books for young readers is sure to catch readers' attention. Chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Jenna and Jeremy. Jenna is angry, prone to acting out and yelling profanities, while Jeremy is withdrawn. Their anguish is palpable. How do young people deal with such grief? How do they go about creating new families for themselves?Lester explores these questions here, and succeeds in creating some suspense, too, associated with the father's motive and with Jeremy's courtroom revelation. Not a cheerful read, but an engrossing story. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Harcourt, Silver Whistle, 199p.,
Gr 9 Up-Lester brings many attributes to his writing for young people: excellent research, a willingness to confront and present controversial topics, aesthetically whole characterizations, and insight on how young people's concerns do not necessarily match those of their elders. All of these attributes inform this novel, which is narrated in the alternating voices of sixth- and eighth-grade siblings, but which takes on issues that require readers to have attained more maturity than the average peers of these characters. The title sums up precisely the plot: the chief psychologist at a small New England college publicly shoots his wife. The ensuing emotional, social, academic, and legal events are presented as they are experienced by the shy, artistic son and his slightly older sister, who is deep in the throes of a tumultuous adolescence. In contrast with Neal Shusterman's What Daddy Did (Little, Brown, 1991), Lester depicts children who were well aware of trouble brewing between their parents. The adults in their lives after the horrific event include the mother's best friend who, curiously, is the father's first wife; their grandparents; the son's art teacher; and the family of a younger schoolmate. The young people undergo personal turmoil, grief, and self-revelation as time passes. This seems to be the crux of the story: the only certain thing in life is change itself. Lester's characters learn how to handle change or become imprisoned by their inability to handle life.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.