FICTION

Behind These Hands

300p. Light Messages. Jul. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781611532593.
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Gr 6 Up—Until now, 14-year-old Claire Fairchild's life has been simple. A gifted pianist, she's the beloved child of educators and the adored sister of rambunctious, six-year-old twin boys. Claire thought getting ready for an acclaimed musical competition would be her most intimidating challenge to date, but nothing prepared her for the medical condition now ravaging her brothers—Batten disease. As Claire and her family try to come to terms with this reality, Claire finds that her passion for the piano eludes her. She is lucky to have Juan, one of her closest childhood friends and a fellow musician, reminding her of who she was before Batten and helping her navigate a "new normal." Claire's process of grief will feel relatable, and her family's responses are likely to resonate. The novel falters only on a couple of points; in a few places, the language feels dated or unrealistic, and there is a saccharine sweetness in the reactions of Claire's friends. The denouement and conclusion feel overly tidy and rosy. Nevertheless, for its validating emotional content, it is a worthy addition. Give this moving novel in verse to readers coping with a health crisis close to home.
VERDICT A solid choice for middle and high school shelves.

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