Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where I Want to Be

Griffin, Adele. 2005. WHERE I WANT TO BE. New York: Putnam. ISBN 0399237836 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Death separates sisters Jane and Lily Calvert, just as mental illness separated them in life. For 17 years they followed diverging paths: Jane’s early penchant for make-believe develops into a clinical difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Lily, on the other hand, outgrows her sister’s elaborate games in favor of an active social life and a boyfriend. Still, the girls share the same early childhood memories, the same parents, grandparents and even classmates. Their lives are closely entwined when Lily suddenly dies.

Griffin’s eerily poignant novel is divided into twenty chapters, each named for one of the sisters. Lily’s chapters reveal, in first-person narrative, the somber silence that shapes the surviving sister’s life: “She’s gone,” says Lily. “What else is there to say?” In contrast, Jane’s chapters describe, in third person, a surreal series of encounters between Jane and her cherished grandparents that seem suspended in time. “The rules were different now. Everything was as real as she made it.” Readers will wonder if Jane’s experiences are flashbacks or if the two girls’ stories are chronicled in ghostly real time. They’ll keep turning pages to the end to find out. Teens will feel the intense pain suffered by Jane, whose illness makes the usual social challenges of high school virtually insurmountable. They’ll also empathize with Lily’s struggle to understand and help her troubled sister. The haunting tale—at once deeply disturbing and hopeful—explores the importance of family, forgiveness, and facing tomorrow.

Readers can reflect on the theme of forgiveness and how it moves the plot in this novel. They can write from experience or fictionalize an account of a time when someone they know is forgiven or is able to forgive.

Other books by Adele Griffin:
OVERNIGHT. ISBN 0399237828
AMANDINE. ISBN 9780786806188
DIVE. ISBN 0613460669

By Suzy Parchman

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