Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

illus. by Christine Larsen. 304p. ebook available. S. & S. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481403108.
Gr 10 Up—Narrator Andrew is a 17-year-old survivor of a terrible car accident that killed his parents and younger sister. He blames himself, is consumed by survivor's guilt, and is on the run from his life, hiding out in a half-finished wing of the hospital where they died. One night, Rusty, another boy his age, arrives in the ER, the apparent victim of a hate crime, badly burned over much of his body. Andrew begins visiting him late at night, reading first from his own comic, Patient F, and then from novels lent to him by the cafeteria manager. The boys come to realize a powerful attraction for one another and Andrew begins to open up to love and forgiveness. The portrayal of his new life is intriguing as readers follow the teen as he works in the cafeteria, makes friends with nurses and patients (particularly two cancer-afflicted teens), and visits and debates with the hospital chaplain, managing to flesh out a supportive shadow community in the absence of his family. The budding romance with Rusty is sensitively portrayed. But the tone through much of the novel is suffocatingly dark, the language cliched and florid. Sentiments such as, "hope is a scam" and "suffering is deserved," quickly bog down the narrative. Chapters are interspersed with excerpts from Andrew's comic, which is difficult to follow but even darker than the text and disconcertingly severe. The few sexual references are fairly tame, but repeated violence and dense emotional situations make this title best suited for older teens.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
After his family dies in an accident, Drew can't leave the hospital where he last saw them. To maintain the ruse, Drew befriends (and deceives) hospital employees while forging friendships with teen patients--including cancer-stricken lovebirds and the victim of a brutal hate crime. Although Drew is an interesting protagonist, the implausible premise and overwritten narration bog down his story.

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