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Gr 9 Up-With the sudden death of his mother, Will begins to question everything to find the meaning of life. He grieves as he searches through memory, religion, philosophy, art, and relationships. Still he is able to find no peace or happiness, except when he is with his new girlfriend, Taryn. Too soon that relationship, though vital, begins to wear thin as all Will finds are more questions and no answers. The Beginner's Guide to Life is a novel of someone in true existential crisis. The teen is thrown by the loss of his mother, which he cannot understand. The book is his quest. Its strengths are the relationships. Each and every one feels authentic: the father with his sons, the brotherly rivalry, the couple, but all of that is overshadowed by Will's need for answers. Beautifully written, this novel will appeal to teens who are deep thinkers and questioners.-Melyssa Kenney, Parkville High School, Baltimore, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
After his mother is killed in a traffic accident, high school senior Will feels nothing at first. Then, at his mother's wake, he falls in love with Taryn, the daughter of family friends ("I am the king of bad timing. Only a monster could think of love"). Pained by his loss, frustrated by his father and brother, and confused by his infatuation, Will begins to question life's meaning. His quest draws him to books from the likes of Seneca and Nietzsche, a passionate relationship with Taryn, experimentation with drugs, and some unlikely mentors. In this acutely insightful first novel, Australian author Hill laces Will's pained journey with the questions he lists in a notebook ("Do my mother's memories live in me?"), philosophical quotations, and his own memories of his mother. Almost nothing escape Will's notice (though his perceptiveness alone doesn't produce answers), and the mosaic of imagery and musings in his poetic, staccato narration offers thought-provoking ideas about grief and the universal drive to find a purpose. Although this novel begins with a death, it is a celebration of life, companionship, and love. Ages 14-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.