November 30, 2006

A bullet. A gun. A boy. A choice

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

It was all one horrible afternoon: a boy folds aside a much loved rug, sits on the bed, puts a gun to his temple, and...

It was an afternoon when nobody was home. There was a gun. The oily taste of the barrel in his mouth. The cold feel of it against his temple. Then Jersey Hatch's hands...

It was an afternoon...

Wait. Maybe there was no gun. Maybe he drove his car into his parent's house. Jersey can't remember. So he asks.
And he asks again.
And he asks again...
Jersey's dad answers him patiently over and over and over, until Jersey remembers to write it into his book: (House is fine, moron, quit asking.) But what else is Jersey forgetting? Why isn't his best friend speaking to him? Who is Elena? And why is his mother so distant, so cold?

The things Jersey knows for sure are that a.) he shot himself, b.) he has no vision in one eye c.)half of his body doesn't work well d.)he has no control over what he says -- he pretty much speaks his WHOLE mind at all times, and it's worse when he gets nervous. The other thing Jersey knows for sure is that his best friend's little sister, Leza, and their grandmother, Mama Rush, are his only friends right now.

And still the question remains: why? Why would a popular kid try to kill himself? That's what everybody wants to know -- even Jersey. He doesn't remember why he wanted to die. He'll never be the confident golfer or the contented jock again. And people are mad at him -- mad enough to not speak to him, shove him when they see him, and hang up the phone when they hear his voice. Jersey's just not sure what's going on. He was at the top of his game, in the world he looks back upon, so why did he pick up the gun? Why was there a gun in the house?

It works at his nerves, but Jersey doesn't remember anything much that happened before he pulled the Trigger.

There's a lot Jersey has to find out. Author Susan Vaught, herself a neuropsychologist, takes us deep inside the sometimes funny, sometimes gut-wrenching inner life of Jersey Hatch. It's a halting, crippled journey he takes, with his mind broken, his mouth spouting nonsense words, and his body with a mind of its own, but Jersey doesn't quit. An inspiring, painful, life-affirming book about an almost suicide, and the strength it takes to hang on and live and not give up and die.

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