I've got a pair of reviews of books by debut authors, and I enjoyed both of them for different reasons. I wouldn't say they're perfect -- they're not -- but they're going to have pretty high appeal to teen readers.
All of the activities at Twin Birch are closely monitored and their treatments are regimented. Except, Zoe doesn't belong here. She knows she doesn't. And that's why she's been writing letters home to her best friend Elise. She thinks there's been a huge mistake. But through these letters, readers figure out why Zoe is at Twin Birch and why she really needs the help she's receiving.
Zoe Letting Go is a dark book about eating disorders, friendship, and recovery. As readers, we're right in Zoe's mind as she's writing letters -- ones from which she never hears a single response. It's odd her best friend wouldn't try to help her. It's odder that she is at this place. What Price does successfully in executing her story this way is that readers pick up on Zoe's problem well before she does, but it doesn't make the end any less satisfying. Because as much as we "know" what's going on, Zoe is a complex, layered character who has more than one reason she's being helped. There's a definite reason she's among the elite few getting treated at Twin Birch and not any ordinary facility.
Price's debut novel is a perfect blend of the elements of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls with Erin Saldin's The Girls of No Return. It will have appeal to fans of both those books, as well as those who like stories about eating disorders, mental illness, and the process of therapy/recovery. Zoe Letting Go is available now.
When Christmas break rolls around, Jane thinks she has cooked up the perfect escape plan: she's going to kill herself on her plane trip home. She'll slip into the bathroom with a bottle of pills. No one else will be hurt in the process. But just as she locks herself in the stall and starts taking her first round of pills, the plane hits turbulence. It's not any kind of turbulence that stops though. This plane's going down.
Isn't it terrible then when Jane finds herself alive in the wreckage? She's not only failed at her suicide attempt, but now she's a crash survivor. Except, she's not alone. Paul, her seatmate, is also alive, and he has convinced her that survival is what she must fight for because it's the right thing. She and he have been given an opportunity that so many others have not. They must make the best of it.
The back blurb of this book calls it Hatchet for a new generation, and I can see that. It's an adventure story through and through. This is a story about a girl who doesn't want to live learning why living is important. It's obvious there's going to be a romance here between Jane and Paul, and while I didn't buy it for a second, the relationship they develop of co-dependence, of working together toward a common goal, of surviving against the odds, is well done. Paul does a great job of teaching Jane the things the treatment facility failed to instill in her, and I think that's where the real story is in this. Survive is about the importance of developing relationships (romantic or not), as well as learning to make your life work for you because those are the only two things that you can do for yourself. This is a fast-paced book and has definite appeal to reluctant readers. I won't ruin the plot, but I'll say this much: it might not be the happy end you expect. I saw it coming from a mile away, but it didn't ruin the story for me. Survive published this week from Razorbill.
Review copies received from the publisher.