cover image Dancing on the Edge

Dancing on the Edge

Han Nolan, Author Harcourt Children's Books $16 (256p) ISBN 978-0-15-201648-7

Nolan's (If I Should Die Before I Wake) attempt to create a compassionate first-person narrative of a mentally ill girl who finds her way back to sanity gets off to a tedious and confusing start. Influenced by her clairvoyant grandmother Gigi, 16-year-old Miracle McCloy grows up believing she doesn't really exist (""If your mama was dead when you were born, then you were never born,"" says Gigi), her father Dane ""melted"" away, and a tornado ripped apart Grandaddy Opal's house because she tried to force her parents back into existence. Nolan (Send Me Down a Miracle) withholds vital facts about Miracle's family situation until the end of the book, leaving readers to struggle through pages and pages of Miracle's bizarre thoughts and habits (e.g., she believes a giant eraser is chasing her on her way home from forbidden dance classes) without a frame of reference as to the origin and depth of her problems. Only when Miracle is sent to a psychiatric ward (after setting herself on fire) do conversations with her therapist and her Aunt Casey reveal why Miracle feels so alienated from reality: her family distanced themselves from her to avoid dealing with her mother's suicide while she was pregnant with Miracle. Despite the puzzling start, Nolan finishes with a realistic and thought-provoking narrative of Miracle's journey back to reality. Unfortunately, readers will have to persevere through the novel's first half to reach its redeeming conclusion. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)