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Are You Alone on Purpose?


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About the Author

Nancy Werlin writes YA fiction that ranges from realistic fiction to suspense to fantasy, often breaking the boundaries between genres. Her books have gathered awards too numerous to mention, but including National Book award finalist, Edgar award winner and finalist, New York Times bestseller, L.A. Book Prize finalist, and IndieBound Top Ten. Nancy's first novel, Are You Alone on Purpose, was a Publishers Weekly Flying Start pick.

Of Nancy's suspense fiction, Sarah Weinman says, "Chances are, many of you haven't heard of this author. That would be a shame, because she's simply one of the best crime novelists going right now. Period." These titles are where Nancy habitually breaks genre-separation rules and include The Rules of Survival (a National Book Award finalist), The Killer's Cousin (Edgar award winner), Locked Inside (Edgar award nominee), Black Mirror (which the Washington Post called "an edge-of-your seat thriller"), and Double Helix (named to multiple best-of-year book lists).

Nancy's unusual fantasy fiction was inspired by the ballad Scarborough Fair and includes the loose trilogy Impossible (a New York Times bestseller), Extraordinary (featuring a rare thing in fantasy fiction: a Jewish heroine), and her personal beloved, Unthinkable.

For fun, Nancy also writes and draws a graphic memoir in comics, using her Tumblr to self-publish an episode three times a week.

Her favorite book in all the world is Jane Eyre.

A graduate of Yale, Nancy lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her husband.


Gr 7-10-Harry Roth has been Alison Shandling's tormentor for years, taunting her about her autistic twin brother and her own academic brilliance. When the Shandlings decide to introduce their children to their Jewish heritage, Alison and Harry-the rabbi's son-are thrown together under circumstances neither could have imagined. Harry becomes a paraplegic in a diving accident that, Alison feels, may have happened because of her mother's wish that Rabbi Roth's son might become ``even more handicapped'' than her own child. She forces Harry to accept her friendship, and the two discover that they have both been emotional cripples for years, at the mercy of their dysfunctional parents. This binds them together, permitting each to let go of the pain of isolation. Alternating chapters related by Alison and Harry carry the story month by month over the course of a year, weaving other aspects of teenage angst into the tapestry of the narrative: Alison's loss of her best friend; the convoluted machinations of the freshman dating scene and, in an exceptionally sensitive episode, Harry's anxiety and Alison's curiosity about his ability to function sexually. The author has taken care to flesh out even minor characters while totally involving readers in the lives of the two main players. While the beginning of a reconciliation between Harry and his father seems a bit facile and the confrontation between Alison and her parents is partially carried out by letters rather than through Werlin's wonderfully strong dialogue, this first novel is a moving portrayal of two remarkable teenagers ably coming to grips with their unhappy circumstances and, one is convinced, triumphing in the end.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA

Alison Shandling and Harry Roth would seem to have nothing in common. "Queen Nerd" Alison sticks with one close friend and stays out of trouble; her parents have enough worries dealing with her autistic twin, Adam. Harry, a bully, runs with the popular crowd and delights in embarrassing his widowed father, a not terribly intelligent rabbi. But a bitter set of coincidences draws Alison to Harry: her mother, infuriated by the rabbi's insensitivity to Adam, tells the rabbi that she wishes his son were handicapped too. When Harry is paralyzed in a diving accident, the rabbi sees it as divine punishment and tries to atone by showering Adam with attention. First-novelist Werlin compensates for the unlikely plot and the even less likely romance that develops between Harry and Alison by investing her characters with rich, strong personalities. She alternates between Alison's and Harry's perspectives to round out the reader's understanding of both families. Her novel has a few too many revelatory moments and too neat a resolution, but her skill in sketching out family dynamics and probing the difficult issues of adolescence mark her as a writer worth watching. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

[werlinAEs] skill in sketching out family dynamics and probing the difficult issues of adolescence mark her as a writer worth watching. (Publishers Weekly)

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