March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl | SLJ Review

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redstarBAYERL, Katie. A Psalm for Lost Girls. 368p. ebook available. Putnam. Mar. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399545252.

YA-Bayerl-APsalmforLostGirlsGr 8 Up –Two years ago, Callie’s older sister Tess started hearing a voice. Tess could often tell if something ominous was on the horizon. The resulting throng of believers changed the course of the da Costas’ lives as their daily rhythm became punctuated by visitations from pilgrims and makeshift shrines to Tess. After Tess was unable to answer prayers to locate a missing girl (the da Costas’ neighbor Ana), the pressure to perform intensified, and she died of an undiagnosed heart condition at 17. Callie’s mom is focused solely on the hope that Tess will be made into a saint. Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny and Callie set out to prove that nothing Tess did was miraculous so that her memory can be left alone. In the process, they become enmeshed in solving the mystery of Ana’s disappearance. What may seem at first like a far-fetched premise turns out to be a beautifully rendered, wholly believable tale. Bayerl’s characters jump off the page, and excerpts from the deceased girl’s journal make her as real as everyone else. The idea that a teen might worry about her physical relationship with her boyfriend because it isn’t the behavior expected of a saint feels as natural as more typical adolescent concerns. The mysteries of Tess’s voice and Ana’s unsolved kidnapping weave in and out and around the narrative, which also delves into grief, sisterhood, mental illness, class, and more. Fans of realistic fiction, mystery, or crime thrillers will find themselves at home in this spectacular debut. VERDICT A compelling must-have for YA collections.–Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.