Sunday, October 23, 2011

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Title: Without Tess
Author: Marcella Pixely
Release Date: October 11th, 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 224
Format: Electronic Copy
Acquired: ARC; Netgalley
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 5 Stars

Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf  in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go

This story had me covered in goosebumps throughout the whole thing; sometimes I didn't even want to read this at night just because of Tess and her behavior. It drove home some important themes of growing up and moving on, and what happens when a child can't do that.

Tess was by far the most interesting character of them all. The reader can see her mental decline throughout the entire book, losing her sense of reality, and how nobody seems to really notice. I feel like Tess wanted to be a child forever, cling to this fantasy that she is this magical horse or selkie, while at the same time wanting to keep Lizzie believing.

But as Lizzie begins to grow up and make new friends, Tess starts to fall behind. There are moments when the feeling of wanting to reach into the book and hold Tess, because there is a way to help her, but I think that most people in this small fishing community wouldn't know what to do. It's easy to say that Tess's parent's should have noticed something, but at the same time Tess's behavior was noticed by another adult figure, who could as well reached out a hand.

When seeing Lizzie as a 15 year old, she shows all the signs of still being traumatized by the events. Trying to get over something like what Tess had done is not an easy task, and I was surprised that it took Lizzie five years before she finally broke.

There is a lot of healing that needs to be done, but the family just seems to want to sleep with their wounds, which isn't healthy for anyone. When it comes to losing one child, sometimes parent's let it slip that they still have one more child that needs support, and I think that Marcella had done an excellent job.

It's never easy talking about the death of a child, especially one like Tess who was losing control, but I think this would be an excellent book for those who have lost someone. I always said that books are therapeutic in one form or another, and I feel like this book falls into that category.

This book is dark and alluring, and I loved how Marcella was able to take complex characters like Tess, who you never knew what she was thinking or why, and bring her to life. I wasn't sure what I was going to expect reading this, because Marcella does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing. Though the way Tess died is almost obvious, so that surprise was taken away.

It's definitely a must have. These character's feel real and are powerful.

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