Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Sarah is 16 and going through an emotional crisis. She is a talented artist but she has stopped creating art, as well as going to school. Instead, she spends her days wandering around Philadelphia, where she literally encounters other versions of herself. She meets 10-year-old Sarah, 23-year-old Sarah, and even 40-year-old Sarah-all of whom try to get her to face traumatic memories and truths that she has been repressing and denying. Voice actor Vacker's first-person narration empathetically conveys all the complexities and nuances of Sarah's emotional state: denial and defensiveness, confusion, fear, anger, and pain. Listeners feel the character struggling to understand her family problems and work out her inner turmoil, while simultaneously trying to avoid doing so by creating a stable facade. Vacker subtly differentiates among the book's characters but doesn't create unique voices for them. For example, she uses a higher pitch to sound childish for 10-year-old Sarah, a deeper, angry pitch for Sarah's father. This production excellently brings to life the novel's portrayal of a teenager struggling to survive and overcome childhood trauma. Ages 14-up. A Dutton hardcover. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9-Up-Sixteen-year-old Sarah is a gifted artist, and she may be having an existential crisis, touched off by a situation involving her art teacher and a rigged art show that has left her unable to draw. She has been suppressing the reason her brother left after a family vacation six years ago and the violence and lies that have existed in her family for a very long time. Sarahs from her past and future may just help her figure it all out. Narrator Karissa Vacker gives a nuanced performance to the four Sarahs, from 10-year-old Sarah's bubbly and cheerful personality to 16-year-old Sarah's confusion and anger. Twenty-three-year-old Sarah is just snarky enough, and 40-year-old Sarah shows a certain contentment. Vacker also successfully portrays the tension and violence that exist in Sarah's family. VERDICT Because it requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief and because it deals with the difficult topic of family abuse and violence, this story is not for every listener. However, both the story and its performance are so creative and sensitive that it may become a favorite for those who do listen.-Ann Brownson, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, SC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Sarah stops going to school after her art teacher curtly announces that nothing is truly original, and suddenly artistically talented Sarah can't draw anymore. Now she wanders Philadelphia seeking art and originality, and during her peripatetic truancy, she meets both her 23-year-old and her 10-year-old selves, and what seemed initially to be a trifling problem becomes much, much bigger. King elegantly uses this surrealistic device to convey the complexity of Sarah's emotional growth. When Sarah was 10, she witnessed firsthand her father's seething cruelty, but 16-year-old Sarah has forgotten it, choosing not to look beyond the surface of her parents' strained marriage. But the more 10-year-old Sarah is around, the more 16-year-old Sarah's curiosity about those memories dredges up shreds of the truth. As she approaches the kernel at the heart of her breakdown, 16-year-old Sarah's growing rapport with her past and future selves, as well as with her mother, a fiery night-shift ER nurse, reflects her expanding sense of self and her strength. Sarah's cutting, honest first-person narrative is studded with powerful images, and her restrained tone is a captivating vehicle for her roiling thoughts and feelings. Occasional sections from her mother's perspective offer chilling insight into the damage that abuse, physical and otherwise, leaves behind. A deeply moving, frank, and compassionate exploration of trauma and resilience, filled to the brim with incisive, grounded wisdom.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist
Horn Book Review
There is no such thing as an original idea, sixteen-year-old Sarahs teacher tells the class, a dictum that sticks with the once-promising art student. Sarah had an original idea, and she executed it beautifully, but Something Happened at school that sent Sarah reeling. She stopped going to high school (not an original idea, she acknowledges) and instead spends her days roaming around Philadelphia, contemplating changing her name to Umbrella, and following a homeless artist man[who] makes headpieces out of tinfoil. Things get weird when she encounters her own self at age twenty-three at a city bus stop, and later at age ten. Ten-year-old Sarah has a message to relay, something shes trying to get todays Sarah to remember, something about the family trip to Mexico that is fresh in child-Sarahs mind. We already know that Sarahs family is in crisis. Her older brother, Bruce, is long estranged, and her parents marriage has been on the rocks for years. Interspersed with Sarahs unfiltered first-person narration are chapters by Sarahs ER-nurse mom, Helen (in which we learn, for example, that her song for her husband is Youre a Dumb Prick and I Hate You), and flashback chapters set in Mexico in which events are slowly revealed. We also learn, in nonlinear fashion, about what happened to Sarah at school, and why her teachers no original ideas psych-out was even more insidious than it seemed. Lack of original ideas is not something found in work by A.S. King (Everybody Sees the Ants, rev. 1/12; Ask the Passengers, rev. 1/13; I Crawl Through It, rev. 9/15), who blurs reality, truth, violence, emotion, creativity, and art in a show of respect for YA readers. elissa gershowitz September/October 2016 p 110(c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
King, master of troubled protagonists and surreal plots, is at it again. Sarah, 16 and white, has had a breakdown after a series of events she wont immediately reveal: there was whatever she saw with Vicky and Miss Smith, and whatever happened at the art show, and perhaps most importantly, there are the things she has been living with but refusing to know for her entire life, especially since the trip to Mexico six years ago. Sarah quits school, instead searching for meaning by following a homeless artist and befriending 10-year-old Sarah, another version of Sarah who has not yet forgotten what happened in Mexico or why their beloved brother has never visited since. Complex, unreliable narration (by 16-year-old Sarah, with interstitial passages narrated by her mother) brings to life what it means to live in a home where abuse is always threatened but never quite delivered, gradually revealing both the immediate triggers for the existential crisis and the underlying trauma. Sarahs fractured selves (23-year-old and 40-year-old Sarah also make appearances) are both metaphor and magic realism; Sarah has fractured herself when the art that has been her solace becomes another point of tension and uncertainty, but these are not hallucinations. King understands and writes teen anxieties like no other, resulting in difficult, resonant, compelling characters and stories. (Fiction. 14 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.