Without Tess

Without Tess

by Marcella Pixley


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374361747
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/11/2011
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Marcella Pixley is a middle school language arts teacher and a writer. Her poetry has been published in various literary journals, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first book, Freak, received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year. She lives in Westford, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons.

Read an Excerpt

Without Tess

By Marcella Pixley

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2011 Marcella Pixley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6982-6


Funeral Lilies

Every Wednesday I bring the battered Pegasus Journal into the high school guidance office. I sit in the rocking chair and lean back so it feels as if the world is holding its breath. I've grown to like this room. I like the painted masks, each one with its own hollow eyes. I like the wooden animals on the bookshelf: the camel, the stork, the wolf raising her face to the moon; but my favorite of all is the wooden horse that hangs from strings above my head. Its mane and tail are made of real hair, and it has red glass mirrors for eyes. It looks into the distance, its dusty head crooked. Tess would have loved this horse. She would have tried to convince me its eyes could cast a spell. I might have believed her when I was a little girl, but now I know better. There's no such thing as magic. I'll never let you go, Lizzie. No matter what happens to me, I'll never ever let you go.

I always come five minutes early. I like to sit in the rocking chair and breathe away everything real. Bad grades and teachers who frown when they see me. Letters sent home in sealed envelopes. All the kids who give me distance like I'm some kind of human plague walking the hallway. I breathe away the silence of Isabella Amodeo, who has pitied me for almost five years and who continues to pity me, no matter how much time goes by. That first week, she delivered casseroles to our doorstep: warm food drowned in melted cheese and tomato sauce, meals Mamma could place on the table without looking. I remember sitting down to dinner, staring at the empty chair.

Of course, there were other kindnesses too. Floral arrangements delivered to the door from our teachers, bouquets of white funeral lilies so pungent they made me cross-eyed. I smelled nothing but funeral lilies that whole first month. Even outside the house — even when I was able to get away from the parade of relatives and neighbors, people who would look at me with sad eyes and then turn away — the smell of funeral lilies clung to my skin, my hair, my clothes. The scent was so strong I still smell it sometimes when I think about how it felt to be without her for the first time. So that now, sadness still smells like funeral lilies to me, and strangely, so does the feeling of loneliness, and so does the feeling of relief, because those were all things that I had never known before Tess left me just Lizzie all alone.

Dr. Kaplan walks into the office at 12:35 and sits at his desk. "Okay, kiddo," he says, "just give me a second." He finds my file and mumble-reads his notes from our last session. Then he settles back into his chair and waits for me to open Tess's battered Pegasus Journal.

The whole thing with the Pegasus Journal was his idea. At our very first session, I told him about the journal filled with sketches and poems. I told him how I rescued it from her coffin the day of her funeral and carried it home in the inside pocket of my coat, how I couldn't let them bury it, because I knew that these pages contained the real story of Tess and me and what happened when things changed. Even though I might not want to remember, burying the Pegasus Journal along with Tess would have been criminal. On that first Wednesday, he told me we had no choice. We had to use the Pegasus Journal to help me come to terms with what happened.

"Ready when you are," Kaplan says, smiling.

It's time to start. I open the Pegasus Journal. The pages are fragile, dog-eared, smudged with fingerprints and shadows. Here is a girl with worms in her hand. Here is an army of toads. Here is the profile of a drowning horse. But it is Tess's face that gazes back at me. Tess's eyes and wild red hair. I catch my breath. I remember the day she drew this. How she rubbed in shadows that made the cheek seem three-dimensional, the ears perfectly lobed like funeral lilies. How she used the back of her thumb to bring out the light in each eye so it looked as though the horse was gazing off into the distance somewhere, at a world unraveling, its tangled mane whipping around its face like the tangled hair of a wild girl who doesn't even care enough to comb a hand through the snarls. The horse on the page opens its mouth. It is my sister's voice coming up through the years. I'll never let you go, Lizzie. No matter what happens to me, I'll never ever let you go.


    Flying Horses

    Milk-white steeds with flashing hooves
    Canter 'cross the boathouse roofs
    Through the tides that flash with foam
    Merlin bring my horses home.

    Feathered wings and golden tail
    Flashing eyes and silken sail
    Canter brave through crashing waves
    Far above the drowned men's graves.

Flying Horses

"What kind of wings do you want?"

Tess raises one eyebrow and waits for me to talk. I don't answer right away. She is eleven and I am nine. It is one week before summer vacation. This is a big decision because whatever wings I choose will be on my back for the rest of my life. We are sitting Indian-style beneath our dining room table, surrounded by the familiar legs of Mamma's writing group, the ragtag bunch of grownups who come to our house once a month on a Saturday with their pages and their pens, to drink iced tea, and talk and cry. Here are Mamma's skinny legs with her embroidered sandals. Here are the poet's straight, uncomfortable legs with her high-heeled black boots. Here are the mystery writer's sickly legs covered with scabs and sores. Here are the picture-book writer's old-lady legs, puffy and swollen, with her blue spiderweb veins, and her red potato feet powdered and pushed into loafers.

Tess and I always spend these meetings sitting under the table making plans for our escape. Tess is holding the Pegasus Journal. She has drawn six different sets of wings, each on its own page. Each set of wings costs seventy-five-thousand dollars and fifty-nine cents, but that's okay because Tess is royalty and she keeps real silver coins hidden under her pillow. There are wings made of the following magical substances: water, gumdrops, moonbeams, gold dust, magic feathers, and peanut butter. Only stupid horses choose peanut butter. Peanut butter wings are gooey. They melt in the sun. The stupid horses who choose peanut butter try to fly, but they always fail. They start off just like Merlin taught us — take a running start and then leap up into the sky. Fly fly, high high, up in the sky, up in the sky. But the stupid horses end up falling flat on their faces. Ker-splatt. Talented horses choose moonbeams or feathers brushed with gold dust. Tess tells me I am one of the most promising horses in our class, and I know this must be true because Merlin tells her everything. Tess taps on the Pegasus Journal and looks down her nose at me. She makes a tick tock tick tock noise with her tongue to tell me that time is running out.

"I'll have gold-dust feathers," I tell her finally, finding the right page. "I'm a black horse. My mane and tail are gold and I have a gold streak down my nose." I pet my nose with one finger.

Tess pats my bangs, scratches me behind one ear, and picks up a gold Magic Marker. With one thin hand, she holds my face still. With the other, she draws a line down the bridge of my nose. The Magic Marker feels cool and wet like a tongue.

"Do you have a star or a diamond?"

"A diamond," I tell her, showing her the shape with my fingers. "And I have one gold stocking. On my left front leg. When I trot you can see it flashing and when I canter it's like a golden blur. That's why they call me Sun Dancer."

"Nice to meet you, Sun Dancer." Tess bows her head and I bow back. She colors a gold diamond on my forehead and a gold band around my left wrist. Even though her fingers are skinny-skinny like baby fingers, they are sharp. They dig into my skin and make me want to pull away. Tess puts her elbow down on my arm until I keep it still. "This'll look cool with the gold wings," she assures me. "Merlin thinks you made a good choice. He says he's glad you've come to study with us."

"When will the magic be complete?"

Tess leans forward so she can whisper into my ear. "In about ten minutes," she says. Her breath is too warm on my cheek. The closeness makes me dizzy. "That's when you'll become a Pegasus. I'll get my moonbeam wings a little earlier since I'm older. I'm black with a gray blaze and a gray muzzle. That's why they call me Smoke. I have magical powers. I can see into the future. Plus I can move objects with my mind. Those are powers Merlin taught me. Here. Draw my markings."

Tess closes her eyes and her face gets still and expectant. I take the gray Magic Marker and color a gray stripe down her forehead. Then I color a circle around her nose and mouth. One of the writers says something muffled and the rest of them laugh. There is the sound of chairs shifting, and people shuffling manuscripts. Ice cubes and glasses clinking. "I don't think Mamma's going to like this," I tell her. "She thinks we're playing tic-tac-toe." We look around us at all the grownups' legs. The mystery writer leans forward and scratches a sore underneath her knee. Then she folds her napkin across her lap and smooths out her skirt with the wrinkled palms of her hands. "I don't want to get in trouble. Mamma doesn't like it when we interrupt the group."

Tess grins. "You still don't understand, do you? They don't need to know everything. Besides" — she brings her face even closer to mine — "we're immortal. We don't need parents. Merlin's in charge of us now. Make my muzzle darker. I think you missed a spot. And make sure my blaze is sort of like a triangle." Tess turns to a new page in the Pegasus Journal. Quick as a flash, she scribble-sketches a horse's head. The mane is blowing in the wind and all the different locks are detailed with lines and shadows so you can really imagine the animal staring off into the distance with its fierce, magical eyes shining. Tess colors in the pupil with the edge of her pencil and leaves a white highlight so it looks like the eye is real. Tess hands over the Pegasus Journal and points at the horse that she wants to be.

"You're so good," I say, sighing, tracing the lines of the face with the edge of my pinkie finger. "I wish I could do that."

Tess shrugs and lifts her chin. "Make me a horse," she commands. I darken my lines. I keep the color inside the circle a solid gray. I trace the contours of her mouth without touching the insides of her lips at all. I work slowly until the job is done. Tess keeps her eyes closed. Then she sways a little. She sticks out her tongue and starts making wet, strangled noises like she's going to throw up.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"The magic," Tess croaks. "The wings. It's happening. It hurts." She rolls herself into a ball. She moves her shoulder blades up and down, wincing and clutching at herself. I can almost see the moonbeam wings coming up from the surface of her back, pushing through the skin, the long, white bones rising like glaciers from the sea, the moonbeams feathering out, each tiny filament, shining, sparkling, until she has wings, beautiful, new, magnificent wings. Tess hunches her back. Then she uncurls, tosses her neck, and whinnies. She turns from one profile to the next, admiring her brand-new moonbeam wings. They are even more special and more magical than Merlin said they would be.

"They are incredible," I breathe.

"I know they're incredible. I can feel them on my back. Lizzie, I need to fly. You've got to get me out of here. If I stay under this table another minute I'll die." Her eyes fill with tears and she begins to shake like the time she had that high fever and Mamma had to put her in a bathtub filled with ice.

"But if we go out, they'll see you."

"Merlin taught me how to turn us invisible." Tess begins to wave her hands in the air.

I grab her skinny wrists. "I think we should stay here until after they're all done with their meeting. If Mamma sees us, she'll make us wash off the Magic Marker. We'll get in trouble."

Tess looks at me, hurt, like I've betrayed her. "It's not Magic Marker," she insists. "I keep telling you. It's magic paint. It's changed me. I'm a Pegasus now. Look at my wings. There's nothing the grownups can do to change me back. After all of your training, after all of your flying lessons, you've got to believe me."

I look at her. She is my sister. She has Mamma's eyes and Daddy's chin and she has gray Magic Marker all over her face. She doesn't have wings growing out of her back. She just has a skinny spine like she's had since I can remember, and shoulder blades that are too sharp for a girl. I look and look at her but I don't see anything. I blink my eyes.

"Don't you believe me, Lizard?" Her eyes are wide. The familiar nickname tugs on my heart and makes me reach out for her. She twines her fingers into mine and looks into my face like she is looking into a mirror.

"Of course I believe you," I mutter.

Tess exhales. I exhale too.

"Let's go," she whispers.

And then I am pulling her out from under the table. We duck between the mystery writer and the poet and we run like our lives depend on it, past the scraggly writers who are drinking their iced tea and looking at their pages over half spectacles and don't see the two invisible horses galloping in bathing suits through the living room, one black with a golden blaze and a golden stocking, the other the color of smoke, with moonbeam wings extending from her shoulders as if she were an angel. They don't see us leap over the coffee table. We link arms and canter together, one two three, one two three, one two three, lifting our knees in unison, through the green double screen doors and out onto the long, wooden wraparound porch overlooking the pine needle hill and the tidal river that leads to the nearby ocean. We go down the porch stairs to the hill and take a running start, and then just as I leap with her, my own wings come, my beautiful gold-dust feathers extending from my shoulder blades like sunlight spreading out across the horizon, like beautiful beams of light. It doesn't hurt like Tess said it would. It feels like heaven. We are angels. I will never doubt her again. This is what it means to be immortal. Tess winks at me. She tosses her head and whinnies.

* * *

"Don't fly too close to the sun," Tess calls. "You'll burn the tips of your wings. Stay right with me. I'll keep you safe."

I gallop closer, but she bounds away, arching her neck and blowing air through her lips. She paws the air with cupped hands. She does cartwheels and somersaults and figure eights with her arms extended like wings. I'm getting out of breath trying to keep up. The sun beats down on our shoulders. Everything tastes like salt and sweat. The writers have moved outside to the porch. Mamma pours glasses of ice water. One at a time, the writers wander to the railing. They look down the hill at the river. I can hear the cool sound of ice against glass.

"I want a drink," I tell Tess.

"Drink some clouds." Tess stops and scoops pine needles into her hands and brings them to my face. I lower my muzzle and pretend to drink, but pine needles are nothing like fresh ice water, and I'm still thirsty.

Tess pulls me to her side and we link arms. One two three. One two three. One two. One two. We raise our knees like Irish dancers and toss our heads. If I watch Tess's doorknob knees from the corner of my eye, we can trot in time. When you trot, your breath bounces out of your mouth. One two. One two. Knees and breath. Up and down. Huff huff. Huff huff. Our bare feet slam the ground. The sun shines down. We trot and trot until we are both glazed with sweat and mosquitoes are buzzing around our heads. I wish I had a nice long horse's tail to swat them away.

Tess looks at me and grins. "Come on," she says.


"It's time for the splash landing. Then you can drink all you want."

Tess pulls us down the pine needle hill, over rocks and roots, across the cracked road, and down the rocky path to the shore. We trot in single file across the stationary dock, across the wooden ramp, and then onto the floating dock that rises and falls with the tide. We stand on the edge and breathe salt and wind. Mamma and the writers are lost in the distance a thousand miles behind us.

"Do you know what this is, Sun Dancer?" Tess asks me, swinging her arm in a wide arc.

"It's the floating dock," I say, smiling.

"No," Tess tells me, her voice soft and mysterious. "This is a huge, fluffy cumulus cloud over the river." She trickles her hands across invisible lumps and bumps, gathering invisible water and cupping her hands to her mouth to drink. I do the same. This time, when I finish drinking I feel quenched.

"Look down at the river."

I do. The sun winks off the water. The wind makes ripples in the air and our cloud floats on the current. I spread my wings to keep my balance. The water is green and deep and the wind makes us cool. I close my eyes. Everything smells like sun and salt.

Tess begins to sing a spell in her magical language. It sounds a little like Hebrew, a little like Spanish, and a little like Korean. It is the language of winged horses.


Excerpted from Without Tess by Marcella Pixley. Copyright © 2011 Marcella Pixley. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Funeral Lilies,
Flying Horses,
Flying Horses,
Crab Carcass Bingo,
Crab Carcass Bingo,
Isabella at the Water Fountain,
Kitchen Ghosts,
Queen of Toads,
Queen of Toads,
Counting Crows,
Counting Crows,
Ave Maria,
Ave Maria,
Coconut Crunch,
Coconut Crunch,
Deep River,
Deep River,
Funeral Shroud,
First Betrayal,
First Betrayal,
Low Tide,
Low Tide,
Poetry Doubles,
Locker Notes,
Blood Promise,
Blood Promise,
Hospital Walls,
Hospital Walls,
Dead Crabs and Sea Glass,
Sacred Heart,
Orange Juice and Happy Pills,
Deep River,
Without Tess,
Pegasus Journal,
Telling the Truth,
Without Tess,
Also by Marcella Pixley,

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Without Tess 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
ReadingCorner More than 1 year ago
Without Tess was a blend of many things: a daring description of mental illness, a beautiful portrayal of the bonds of sisterhood, a book that made me smile and cry. It was one of those novels that I simply couldn't put down and reading page after page after page I found myself drowning in the emotions of the main character--possibly because I understand the sisters' relationship, possibly simply because this book is written in compelling prose. Lizzie, our main character, has been trying to cope with her sister's untimely death for five years when the story opens. Told in mix of flashbacks, poetry, and counseling sessions, the story of Tess and Lizzie's intense relationship comes to life before your eyes. Despite the fact that Tess is already dead when the book starts, we get to know her through Lizzie's recollections. It's clear from the beginning that Tess' playful imaginings are more than just make believe to her. Lizzie goes along with everything her sister says from the beginning because she loves her sister more than anything in the world. But when Tess' world of make believe becomes all too real for Lizzie, she has to make the choice to separate herself from her sister's world and that decision haunts her for a long time--well after her sister's death. Lizzie is a character that really broke my heart. It was tough to watch her hide herself away from the world because as the outside observer you could tell that she really just needed to talk about what happened--and not to a shrink or her parents. There is such an intense difference between the girl of the flashbacks and present-day Lizzie. Tess, despite being dead from the beginning, is a character that you both grow to love and hate through Lizzie's flashbacks. She's rather intense, to say the least, and you watch her wrap Lizzie into her delusions throughout the novel. Tess was a character who made me feel both empathy and anger for her all at the same time. You are literally watching her waste away because of her delusional beliefs, which is heart-breaking, but at the same time, you watch her inflict intense emotional and sometimes physical pain on those around her, especially Lizzie. Niccolo was an interesting minor character. I liked how he pursued Lizzie because he didn't push TOO hard, but he made sure that she knew he was there for her. I wanted her to lean on him and finally let SOMEONE in. However, Lizzie and Niccolo's relationship could have made a lot more sense. I understood their little make-out session, but I could have used a little more build-up. Like, maybe that first time could have just been one kiss spurred on my the crying/laughing? The end wraps up possibly a little too quickly but in a way that makes sense. Lizzie isn't really "letting go" of Tess, but you finally feel like she has some semblance of inner peace and there's hope for her parents as well. Overall, I thought this was a well-done story of one sister's mental illness and the other's path to forgiveness and letting go. I would recommend it to YA readers who enjoy issue-centered YA reads.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Makes your heart burst. Heartbreaking. Beautifuly written. 100+ stars
judiparadis on LibraryThing 8 months ago
What does mental illness do to a family? A young girl describes the toll her older sister's complete break with reality, eating disorders, and subsequent death have on her and her parents. Well-told and intense, and absolutely riveting.
renkellym on LibraryThing 8 months ago
By far the most notable thing about Without Tess is the gorgeous prose. Marcella Pixley¿s writing is lilting and lyrical and lovely. It was perfect for a story about a dreamy girl who lives in a world full of fairies and flying horses. Pixley gives the novel a dreamy feeling, but darkness almost always edges in, leaving the reader unsure of whether Without Tess is a pleasant dream or a nightmare. Much of this darkness comes from Tess, the titular character. Tess is quirky and filled to the brim with imagination, but she¿s also psychotic and reckless. Tess¿s world of delusions is vivid and terrifying, and though her Pixley lets us glimpse into the mind of someone truly insane. Through flashbacks we get to see Tess sink further and further into her imaginary world, and while it¿s a bit horrifying, it¿s also fascinating and very absorbing. You can¿t help but read on, wondering about Tess¿s ultimate demise.Another enjoyable thing about Without Tess is the poetry sprinkled throughout. The poetry is truly beautiful, and it¿s whimsicality really helped portray what kind of child Tess was. The way the poems lead up to a flashback, too, was very well done, and I liked trying to compare Tess¿s perspective (the poems) and Lizzie¿s (the narrative). Lizzie¿s narration has two sides¿there are the flashbacks, where she¿s a naïve child who looks up to her sister, and there is the present, where Lizzie tries to explain to her therapist why she won¿t let Tess go. I personally enjoyed Young Lizzie¿s narration the best¿her innocence provides an interesting perspective, and because of her youth, everything is candid; there is no unreliable narrator. I found Lizzie¿s current predicament to pale in comparison to her experiences with Tess; perhaps shedding light on why she refuses to forget her sister. Still, the interactions between Lizzie and her therapist were fun, and I enjoyed the ongoing gag about Lizzie using Tess¿s poetry to pass her creative writing class.Without Tess is another rare YA story that could be considered magically realistic. There are elements of fantasy¿so fans of make-believe will enjoy those parts¿but there are also contemporary and psychological themes that ground the book in reality. Because of this, Without Tess will appeal to all YA readers¿young and old. I definitely enjoyed reading about Tess and Lizzie; their adventures were fun and occasionally scary, and their tie to each other was otherworldly.
shelleyraec on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Without Tess is a haunting tale of mental illness, grief and survival. The blurring of imagination and reality in childhood is one of it's immense joys, I remember pretending I was a mermaid while swimming and hoping to find fairies in the garden. Eventually most of us lose that sense of possibility but in this novel, Tess retreats into her fantasies and is lost.Alternating between the present and the past we learn of fifteen year old Lizzie's overwhelming guilt and grief over her lost childhood relationship with her sister, Tess. At ten Lizzie idolises her older sister, Tess is bold and imaginative and their play is characterised by make-believe. As the sister's story unravels it becomes obvious to the reader that Tess is mentally ill especially as their innocent play becomes something dark and sinister. Eager to please her eleven year old sister, Lizzie lets herself be drawn into Tess's games but is never sure if Tess is only pretending or really believes her wild fantasies. The tension builds as Lizzie's confusion grows and Tess's behaviour becomes more outlandish.I thought Pixely captured Lizzie's struggle with her sister's behaviour realistically. She is on the cusp of maturity where a child still longs for magic even though they know it doesn't really exist. The emotional and intellectual conflict for Lizzie is intense and as a child she is torn by her loyalty to Tess and her growing awareness of what is accepted behaviour. I didn't find it all surprising that at fifteen Lizzie was still unable to reconcile her feelings about her late sister, particularly when the issue of her Tess's illness was ignored at home both before and after her death.Tess is revealed through Lizzie's memories and the legacy she left in the form of a journal. The author skilfully and cleverly reveals how Tess's imagination slides inexorably into delusion. The reader is aware before Lizzie is that there is something wrong with Tess. I watched a documentary on childhood psychosis not too long ago and I feel the author really captured the eerie demeanor and thought processes of a mentally ill child. I sympathised with Tess, a mere child dealing with psychosis that probably frightened her almost as much as Lizzie, but I was simultaneously creeped out by her.The first person point of view gives is a sometimes odd mix of childish naivety and maturity but the language of Without Tess is lyrical. Tess's poetry from her journal precedes each chapter, with each piece more disturbing, adding to the atmosphere of the novel. The pacing is perfect, building slowly to the tragic conclusion without ever losing tension.Without Tess is labeled as YA but I think in general it as best suited to an older reader but I can see great value in this novel for teens of any age who have a mentally ill sibling. Without Tess is a compelling read that examines a difficult subject in a sensitive yet honest manner.
readingthruthenight on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I am SO glad that I stumbled upon this book via Netgalley because I absolutely know I would have skipped over it at the bookstore. The cover is just not oooh la la for me. And yes, although I know one should not judge a book by its cover, I'm superficial like that.This book is A-May-Zing. I was immediately drawn into Lizzie's story as she sits in the office with her shrink going through her sister Tess's journal. Tess is dead and even though it's years later, Lizzie isn't dealing with it so well.Lizzie and Tess had a unique relationship. Tess creates these fantastical scenarios where magic happens, mermaids exist, and Merlin whispers secrets to her. Lizzie adores her sister and is always willing to play along. Except there finally comes a time in childhood where Lizzie is done pretending and Tess is adamant that she's not.So what makes this book A-May-Zing? Pixley's description of an emotionally sick little girl is gut wrenching and so realistic that I truly felt I KNEW Tess and Lizzie. At parts it was painful to read. Lizzie doesn't realize how disturbed her sister really was and the biggest obstacle in dealing with her death is accepting that bit of knowledge. There were moments when Tess was vicious and manipulative, always testing Lizzie's love and loyalty for her. Often, these tests would put Lizzie's life in danger. Yet young Lizzie loved her unabashedly. It's the older Lizzie that can't make sense of her adoration and hate.Told in flashbacks, you'd think that it'd get a bit confusing. But it never does. The writing is that seamless. I read this book in one sitting.
booktwirps on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Without Tess is an achingly gorgeous read. The writing is so lyrical and the characters so vivid, I felt as if I were in the same room with them. The story focuses on Lizzie whose sister Tess died when she was younger. Six years later she is still coping with the grief.Eleven-year-old Tess lives in a fantasy world. In the beginning I was able to connect with Tess. Like her, I had a very active imagination when I was young. As the story moves forward, the reader realizes there is something mentally wrong with Tess. She refuses to break out of her fantasies and this causes much pain, both physical and emotional, for her younger sister who just wants to grow up. The book alternates between past and present, allowing the reader to experience Lizzie¿s childhood with her unpredictable sister, and showing us how Lizzie and her family are still dealing with the death of Tess. The book is also spattered with fantastical poetry written by Tess which helps illustrate the chapters nicely. Though at times the wording in the poetry felt a little mature, even for a precocious eleven-year-old, it didn¿t bother me. This is a book that could very easily be passed over since it does deal with some darker subject matter, but in my opinion, it¿s one that should not be missed.(Review based on an Advanced Reader¿s Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)
Melanie_McCullough on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Actual Rating 4.5 Stars Growing up my sister Katie was my best friend. My family moved around a lot so she was oftentimes the only constant in my life. She was creative, exciting, adventurous. All the things I longed to be myself. And I truly believe that I would have followed her anywhere and done anything she'd asked. Perhaps this is why Without Tess has affected me so profoundly. It was a story that immediately resonated with me and I found myself tearing up just a few short pages in. Tess is ill, that much is clear from the pages of her journal and Lizzie's recollection of their relationship. She lives in a fantasy world. She is delusional and is in equal parts protective of and cruel to her younger sibling. She often makes Lizzie feel like she is inferior or requires that she do something dangerous in order to prove her love for Tess. As Lizzie grows up and away from Tess, Tess becomes desperate to keep Lizzie believing in her fantasies. She doesn't want to participate in therapy or take medication that will take away the magic. Eventually, she becomes depressed and chooses to end her life, leaving Lizzie without an intense guilt for having been unable to save her sister. Now a teenager, Lizzie must come to terms with what happened and through her sister's journal entries understand why it happened. The prose is lyrical, poignant, incredible. Ms. Pixley knows how to create a daring, dark, and emotionally taut experience for her readers. Her characters are well-developed, multi-faceted, complex. There were times I despised Tess's behavior and times I wanted to cry for her. And Lizzie. I adored Lizzie. Especially younger Lizzie who blindly follows Tess. Who worships her older sister. Who reminded me so much of me. I cannot say enough about this book. I LOVED it. Seriously Ms. Pixley, I need more books like this in my life. Please. I beg of you, write more like this and I will continue reading. This story broke my heart. It's a painful look at mental illness, love, loss, and guilt that will take me a while to recover from. I recommend it for anyone who likes an emotional contemporary or who finds themselves in need of a good cry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first i thought it was going to be a sad romance book but it turned out to be my faf book it made me cry but yet it was sooo butiful and very well writen .it just made my heart swell as i was reading. Its one those books.its a MUST READ. : )
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book mabe my dad cry like a baby. Yup this is a emotional book that will rock ur world. An amazing story about two sisteers, Tess and Lizzy. When Tess comits sueiside, Lizzy is left with the hard task of trying to let Tess go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book but sad keep tissues near
BookSake More than 1 year ago
When I started this one I wasn't expecting the story that came. This is a tale that weaves in and out of the present and the past, it's as much about Tess and her mental instability as it is about Lizzie and her need to hold onto the sister she loved. I find stories regarding mental illness fascinating and this one was really intriguing because of the fantasy world that Tess lived in. So many times I found myself holding my breath, wondering if that moment was the moment that would change Tess and Lizzie's world, I knew it would happen, I just didn't know when. While Tess is definitely in a different mind frame than most of us, she is still relatable which makes her endearing as she tries to hold on to what makes her happy. Lizzie, even as the little sister, knows the difference between fantasy and reality and at times tries to reel her sister in while at the same time, she wants to believe in her sister's world. It is a heartbreaking story about friendship, family, loss, and survival. Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
Without Tess is an achingly gorgeous read. The writing is so lyrical and the characters so vivid, I felt as if I were in the same room with them. The story focuses on Lizzie whose sister Tess died when she was younger. Six years later she is still coping with the grief. Eleven-year-old Tess lives in a fantasy world. In the beginning I was able to connect with Tess. Like her, I had a very active imagination when I was young. As the story moves forward, the reader realizes there is something mentally wrong with Tess. She refuses to break out of her fantasies and this causes much pain, both physical and emotional, for her younger sister who just wants to grow up. The book alternates between past and present, allowing the reader to experience Lizzie's childhood with her unpredictable sister, and showing us how Lizzie and her family are still dealing with the death of Tess. The book is also spattered with fantastical poetry written by Tess which helps illustrate the chapters nicely. Though at times the wording in the poetry felt a little mature, even for a precocious eleven-year-old, it didn't bother me. This is a book that could very easily be passed over since it does deal with some darker subject matter, but in my opinion, it's one that should not be missed. (Review based on an Advanced Reader's Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley)