The Way He Lived

Emily Wing Smith, Author . Flux $9.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-7387-1404-2

Besides living in the same Mormon community in Utah, Tabbatha, Adlen, Miles, Claire, Norah and Lissa have something else in common: each had a special connection to Joel Espen, who died of dehydration after giving away his water during a badly planned Boy Scout expedition. In vignettes showing the six teens’ differing points of view, first-time author Smith probes into the psychologies of the survivors to demonstrate Joel’s effect on their lives and their attempts to make sense of his death. Tabbatha, Joel’s overachieving older sister, accelerates her recovery from the “nervous breakdown” she suffered before Joel died, telling herself that each new effort is something her brother would have wanted from her; his best friend, a self-proclaimed “bad kid,” slashes the tires of the Scout leader’s truck, using the knife Joel left him. The author preserves each narrator’s complexity, investigating their defenses and revealing their core selves while dropping clues about the enigmatic Joel. It’s a testament to Smith’s skills that although her central character speaks only through other people’s recollections, his identity emerges distinctly by the end of the novel, giving the audience enough information to judge his actions for themselves. Ages 13–up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
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