Tag Archives: sisters

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gen & Dixie by Sara Zarr. April 4, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062434593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Though she does reasonably well in school and stays out of trouble, Gem doesn’t have it easy. She is constantly on her mother’s case to be a more responsible parent, which puts her at odds with her sister, Dixie, who enables their mother in more ways than one. When their estranged dad shows up, Dixie is enchanted and Gem is wary, but when they discover a backpack full of money he’s left in their room, Gem and Dixie ditch their phones, run away, and spend a few days—and a few thousand dollars—figuring out what to do next. But will the money really provide Gem the independence she so desperately craves? In this illuminating, graceful novel, Zarr demonstrates how privation can reverberate through many areas of a teen’s life, and nicely emphasizes that problems don’t need to be violent or catastrophic in order for one to ask for help (which, thankfully, Gem eventually does). In addition to the powerful portrayal of poverty, Zarr teases out a moving story of sisters navigating their relationship. In Gem’s measured, worried voice, readers will discover a gulf of difference, even resentment, between the sisters, as well as a deep, affectionate solidarity in their unique circumstances. With a vivid, well-rounded cast of characters, including the adults, and a poignant portrayal of family dynamics, Zarr’s frank, resonant story is both bittersweet and triumphant.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Two sisters attempt to sort out their relationship, which is badly strained by years of living with their troubled and neglectful parents. Seventeen-year-old Gem struggles to get enough to eat each day, eventually resorting to bumming spare change off other students at her Seattle high school. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old sister, Dixie, for whom Gem served as protector when they were younger, is able to charm and flirt her way into free sandwiches, cellphones, and more. Despite their drastic outward differences, neither has any sense of safety or well-being in their tenuous living situation with their mom, who, like their absent dad, battles a substance-use disorder. When their dad suddenly returns, their lives are upended yet again, and a situation arises in which both sisters face many hard decisions. Tough, earnest, angry Gem narrates in a matter-of-fact, confessional tone, filling in the heartbreaking back story of her poor, white family in a pair of brief essays she writes at the behest of her school’s kind, supportive psychologist. Gem’s prickly, agonizingly real internal monologues quickly bring readers into her corner, and her messy, layered interactions with Dixie are heart-wrenching. As the unpredictable turns of events progress, Gem’s quietly growing convictions about her own future are hard-won and nuanced. A poignant and smart family drama with broad appeal. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, and co-author with Tara Altebrando of Roomies. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her novels have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library and have been translated into many languages. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. Sara lives in Salt Lake City with her husband.

Her website is www.sarazarr.com.

Around the Web

Gem & Dixie on Amazon

Gem & Dixie on Goodreads

Gem & Dixie on JLG

Gem & Dixie Publisher Page

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby. October 25, 2016. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062354600.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

When Nico Morris’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, when Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah….

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Physical and emotional abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Nico Walker both admired and feared her beautiful, popular, and often cruel older sister, Sarah. When Sarah goes missing after sneaking out to meet her boyfriend in the park, Nico’s family is consumed by her disappearance and the continued, desperate search to find her. Four years later, after a multitude of heart-wrenchingly false leads, Sarah is located, but the competitive, athletic golden girl has changed. Sarah can’t remember anything about the years that she has been gone or even about her life before she went missing. And as much as Nico has longed for her sister’s return, she’s having trouble believing in Sarah’s newfound kindness. With compelling, memorable storytelling, Busby (The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, 2016) captures the complicated and often fraught relationship between siblings, especially in the aftermath of family trauma. Eerie and evocative, this thriller will likely inspire return visits to pick up on previously missed clues, and plenty of plot twists will keep readers guessing.

Publishers Weekly (August 29, 2016)
It’s been four years since 15-year-old golden girl Sarah Morris disappeared from Pennsylvania’s MacArthur Park. Her sister, Nico, now 15 herself, has gotten used to Sarah’s disappearance eclipsing nearly every aspect of her family life. When they get a call from a children’s center in Florida claiming that Sarah is alive and suffering from amnesia, they immediately hop a plane. Nico doesn’t know what to think, but she does know that this thin, pale girl is a shadow of the sister she once knew, the sister who physically and emotionally abused her on an almost daily basis. This Sarah is kind and warm, and as Nico spends more time with her, the evidence mounts that a stranger may be among them. Busby’s (Blink Once) tense mystery alternates between Nico and Sarah’s points of view, using the tactic of an unreliable narrator to great effect while exploring how tragedy can alter every detail of a family’s existence. A final twist leads to a surprising and utterly satisfying conclusion. Ages 13-up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

About the Author

Cylin Busby is the author of several teen books and numerous articles as well as the acclaimed young adult memoir, The Year We Disappeared, which was a Wall Street Journal bestseller, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and a Cybils Award winner.

The former Senior Editor of Teen Magazine, Cylin now lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Her website is www.cylinbusby.com.

Around the Web

The Stranger Game on Amazon

The Stranger Game on JLG

The Stranger Game on Goodreads