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Peeling the Onion

by Wendy Orr

Published by Holiday House, 1997
166 pages
ISBN: 0-8234-1289-X

Ages 12 - 16

A debilitating car crash has stripped 17-year-old Anna Duncan of everything she once knew to be true about herself: athletic, graceful, self-confident, smart. Now she struggles to sit, to stand, to walk; to move without shaking and eat without spilling; to navigate each day in a haze of dizziness and pain. " 'Invalid' is a funny word. You say it one way it means sick person. 'Enfeebled,' says the dictionary, 'or disabled by illness or injury.' Say it another way and it means not true. Not valid. Worthless." Anna once measured success in terms of karate championships; now it is a few steps taken, a few hours free of pain. As she watches her best friend fall in love and hears stories about the senior year of high school they were supposed to share together, she mourns what she has lost. "Sometimes I feel so cheated....I've had a whole chunk of my life stolen. Nobody's going to hand me a few months at the other end and say, 'Here you are, here's the bit you missed out on.' " In Peeling the Onion, author Wendy Orr has transformed personal experience into riveting fiction with clarity; the story of Anna's emergence into a new self-awareness holds the center tight. Anna's first-person narrative detailing the impact that her accident has on her own life and the lives of her family and friends is unflinchingly honest but never overwhelming. If the romance which blossoms at the story's end seems a little bit too perfect, it is more than offset by the taut, hard-edged observations about life and death, bitterness and pain, hopelessness and hope throughout the rest of the novel. CCBC categories: Fiction for Teenagers (MS; July 28)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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