cover image After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away

Joyce Carol Oates, . . HarperTempest, $16.99 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-06-073525-8

As engrossing as Oates's Sexy , this psychological drama explores how a teen is changed by a devastating automobile accident that leaves her mother dead. Fifteen-year-old Jenna is sitting in the passenger seat when the car her mother is driving careens into the guardrail of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Details of the wreck remain fuzzy to Jenna, but she feels that she may have been responsible for the crash. After her physical injuries heal, her emotional wounds are still raw as she adjusts to a different life, leaving her home in Tarrytown, N.Y., moving to a small New Hampshire town to live with her aunt and uncle and their two younger children. She begins to think of her life in terms of before the wreck and after the wreck , and longs to be "in the blue," the idyllic drug-induced state she experienced in the hospital. Jenna tries to emulate that feeling, turning to a cool but dangerous senior girl, alcohol and drugs—and distances herself from the people who love her and want to help her most. It isn't until Jenna develops an unlikely friendship with Crow, a rugged biker from Canada, that she finds the courage to confront and overcome her fears. Throughout this intense novel, the author offers keen insight into the cause and effect of a teen's self-destructive behavior. Readers distraught by Jenna's downward spiral after the wreck will find solace in the book's inspiring conclusion. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)