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Gr 6-9-An alienated teen heals herself in this well-written story of emotional survival. Chrissa's life with her mother is a cold, lonely place of unanswered questions about her father, who has vanished. She is sent to live with her grandmother in the country for a year, where she hopes to unlock the secrets of his disappearance. As she explores her father's boyhood home and surroundings for clues, her city eyes open to the beauty and diversity of nature. She develops friendships at school and with Thad, the boy next door, along with a protective loyalty toward her grandmother, whose small savings and forest land attract the interest of an unscrupulous preacher. In the rhythms of daily life, Chrissa releases herself from the past's disappointments and begins to rely on strong inner resources. As the winter landscape frees itself from a spectacularly beautiful, yet crippling ice storm, Chrissa, too, thaws and is able to face the truth that her father is in jail and that she is free to be herself. Taut prose is interspersed with italicized memories. Characterizations of the girl, her grandmother, and the neighbors are adept. Setting plays an important role in the story. In her New York City home, Chrissa is a nonentity, a faceless, hopeless teen; in the country, her presence contributes to the natural order, and she positively affects the lives of others. Empowered by her own sense of fitness, she faces her demons, the parents who have failed her, and forgives.-Alice Casey Smith, Monmouth County Library Headquarters, Manalapan, NJ

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