Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sisters in Sanity / Gayle Forman

Summary - Have you ever had the out-of-control dream? The one where you know you’re not crazy, but no one around you—not your parents, not your teachers, not even the authorities—will listen to you?

For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, the out-of-control dream comes true when her dad enrolls her at Red Rock, a bogus treatment center that claims to cure rebellious teen girls. At Red Rock, Brit is forced into therapy and her only hope of getting her life back is in the hands of an underqualified staff of counselors, a hardass Sheriff and a cruel shrink. Brit’s dad thinks Red Rock can save her, but from what? Brit thinks that the place is doing her more harm than good.

No girl could survive at Red Rock alone—but at a treatment center where you get privileges for ratting on your peers, it’s hard to know who to trust. For Brit, everything changes when she meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie, four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together, they’ll hang on to their sanity and their sisterhood while trying to keep their Red-Rock reality from becoming a full-on nightmare.

Review - Having read two Gayle Forman titles now I can attest to them being a very quick read. Whether this is attributed to being awesome or being shorter than some YA novels or being extremely well paced or a combination of the three, I don't know. Having loved If I Stay so much I was a little scared to read Sisters in Sanity, how could it compare?

I shouldn't have worried.

Forman has again demonstrated her wonderful skills in characterisation, crafting a group of girls that are as different as night and day. Each girl is clearly depicted without ever being cliched or contrived. They are strong, flawed and generous with one another which results in the relationship that unites them in the toughest of circumstances. I loved seeing a group of teen girls accept one another without judgement, supporting one another. They aren't cookie cutter perfect, they wouldn't be in Red Rock if they were. Yet the events of the book depend on the reader's conviction that these five are united. There's no doubting that with the fantastically honest, revealing and sometimes humorous interplay between them. It's easy to find yourself involved deeply in their plight.

Brit, V, Bebe, Cassie, and Martha have found themselves in this hell hole as a result of being deemed challenging, promiscuous, bi-curious and overweight. All have been diagnosed as ODD (Oppositionist Defiance Disorder) by an unqualified hack, a diagnosis that could encompass all teenagers with ease. Even more shocking is that the events of these books have been inspired by real life circumstances, teens being kidnapped and placed in the confines of radical boot camps or behaviour modification centres.

Our protagonist, Brit, is struggling with her mother's desertion, her father's remarriage to the Stepmonster and a burgeoning interest in being a guitarist. She doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't fornicate but with her pink streaked hair, tattoos and piercings, she is deemed to be anti-social. From the first chapter I felt this character's pain and I was with her every step of the way in her attempts to withhold from the staff, remember Jed, cope with her father's cowardice and fight to retain the essence of herself.

This is a moving tale of sisterhood, trust, hope and self-belief. Forman has a talent in balancing a story, never allowing it to become overwhelmingly dire while embracing the humour in the most unlikely of situations. There is also the through line of music, like If I Stay, Brit is a musician with a love interest that plays in a band. Songwriting and her new friends become Brit's salvation in a situation that sees no end.

It's no secret that I have a huge literary crush on Gayle Forman. Sisters in Sanity is written in the same style that grabbed many of us in her sophomoric effort, If I Stay. With Sisters in Sanity coming out today in paperback I would highly recommend that you buy yourself a copy.

Published: 2007
Format: Hardcover, 290 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Origin: USA
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"I've Got Your Back" mp3 of song Brit writes in the book
Which sister are you? Survey (I'm Martha, if you are interested)
Gayle's article for Seventeen that inspired this novel
Book Trailer:


prophecygirl said...

I'm buying this as soon as I can find a copy. Thanks for the brilliant review!

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Great review. I recently reposted mine from last year. Gayle was one of the first people to send me her book for review, so I of course, love her as well. This really is a good book.


Keri Mikulski said...

Sounds good. :)

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