Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Published: June 2010
Genre(s): YA, poetry, contemporary, mystery
Challenge(s): YA Saves
In one moment it is over. In one moment it is gone.
Twelve-year-old Hope’s life is turned upside down when her older sister, Lizzie, becomes an elective mute and is institutionalized after trying to kill herself. Hope and Lizzie have relied on each other from a young age, ever since their dad died. Their mother, who turns tricks to support her family, is a reluctant and unreliable parent—at best.
During the course of this lyrical and heartbreaking narrative, told in blank verse from an exceptionally promising YA voice, readers will discover the chilling reason why Lizzie has stopped speaking—and why Hope is the only one who can bring the truth to light and save her sister.
Although this is the first book of Carol Lynch William's that I have read, I love the contemporary covers of her YA books, this one included. It's beautiful, and captures the setting quite well. Maybe it's a tad bit cheerful for the book, but there is a lot of darkness, which makes you ask yourself, what aren't you seeing?
-- Expectations --
I'm not sure I really knew what to expect. I came across it at my library, and recognized the cover, remembering that it was on my TBR list, so I checked it out.
-- Review --
I'm not really sure what to say about Glimpse, but I'll let you know how I'm feeling right now as I write this review - sick to my stomach. It's the same feeling I had when I read the book more than eight hours ago. Everytime I think about the book I get the same feeling and I just can't shake it. This book has gotten under my skin!
Glimpse is a novel told in verse (Williams is much less experimental than Ellen Hopkins), that takes you into the lives of the Chapman girls - Hope, the protagonist, Lizzie, her older sister, and their mother. Hope and Lizzie are best friends, and take care of each other, as they have often been forced to after their father's death and their mother's neglect. Let me just say, the mother is so infuriating in this novel! Her children are openly exposed to her sex work and she is far too concerned with herself, often neglecting her kids. She's always told Hope and Lizzie to look out for each other, but one day, Hope finds Lizzie about to commit suicide. When her best friend and sister is hospitalized, Hope is left ... well, without much hope, asking herself "why?" and fending for herself. The novel progresses through Hope's attempts to understand her sister's situation, as well as her family's own, as she goes about her life in the weeks after, reflecting on memories of her family and sister.
The novel deals with many dark subjects, such as suicide and neglect, among other things, although it doesn't always come across as heavy, as it is told through our young narrator's eyes Hope and the reader often sees the seriousness of the situation long before Hope does. While the reason for Lizzie's suicide attempts is not hard to figure out once you begin reading, it's a conclusion that you don't want Hope, or the book to reach. I found myself wishing that I was reading into the situation too much, or that I would be wrong... but sadly, I wasn't, and like I said, it still turns my stomach. Although the reader can very easily guess the main plot of the book, the reading experience is still ... well enjoyable seems the wrong word, but I think you get what I mean. There's still reason enough to read this book, as the story is both captivating and heartbreaking.
The character's were very well written. We experience the book through Hope's P.O.V and Carol Lynch Williams does a great job of writing through the eyes of an (almost) thirteen year-old girl. She doesn't figure everything out all at once, but the conclusion is built through small realizations and memories that Hope ultimately pieces together in the end. Her mother is also well written... in the fact that she can make your skin crawl at times, and truly resent her. Then there are the more enjoyable side characters like Mrs. Freeman, an caring neighbour, and Hope's other best friend, Maria. Maria was so fun, and her scenes really helped to sort of balance out the heaviness of Hope and Lizzie's life.
The novel is set somewhere in the Southern United States... I don't think an exact location is given, but forgive me if I am wrong. I found it very interesting how the author was able to embed a bit of a southern dialect into the verse, which I think helped add to the atmosphere. The sharp verse, which could trail off, helped create a sort of stuffy feel that was confining, and it lent itself to a lack of comfort and safety, which really fit with the themes of the novel.
All in all, Glimpse is a book that I'm sure will stick with me for a while, both because of the content, and the characters. Now I can't wait to read some other books by Carol Lynch Williams!