by Susan Shreve

Alyssa Reed is having a tough year. On top of having to cope with her baby sister’s... read more

Alyssa Reed is having a tough year. On top of having to cope with her baby sister’s recent death by stillbirth, her parent’s marriage deteriorates from troubled to broken beyond repair. To add to her stress, Alyssa moves with her mother to a new town, while her father moves into his own apartment. Devastated by grief at the loss of her baby and marriage, Alyssa’s Mom is mired in her own depression, and fails to provide the comfort Alyssa is craving. Alyssa’s Dad becomes romantically involved with a young woman, a development that Alyssa discovers when she opens an unfamiliar suitcase beneath her father’s bed, disclosing risqué female clothing, jewelry, and make-up. In response to all the unhappiness, Alyssa adopts the new name “Blister” (“like when your shoes are too tight”), and a tough persona to go with it. Friendless and lonely at her new school, proactive Blister attempts to establish a reputation of sophistication and coolness, with the help of clothing “borrowed” from the illicit suitcase. Throughout it all, Blister’s unconventional grandmother offers love and support, and helps Alyssa understand that people’s responses to trauma can vary. At the book’s close, Alyssa and her mother begin to share their feelings, and her mother realizes that she’s “been worrying too much about my own sadness, and not enough about yours.” Despite the weighty issues tackled in this novel, Blister’s fresh and often funny voice saves the story from descending into gloom, and its positive ending offers hope for Alyssa’s future. (Ages 9–13)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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