cover image  All Rivers Flow to the Sea

All Rivers Flow to the Sea

Alison McGhee, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2591-7

Rose gets through life 15 minutes at a time since the accident that left her sister, Ivy, comatose. As fine points of the car crash slowly emerge, Rose's confusion with life builds. From wondering about the whereabouts of her absent father to having sex at the Sterns Gorge with Jimmy Wilson and other boys in their small town, just to feel something ("I hurt. My body hurts. The hurt feels good; it feels alive—and then that too is gone"), Rose talks to Ivy continually. At first, the disconcerting second-person style effectively puts Rose at arm's length from readers, but the narrative quickly shifts to first-person, and the moment of transition feels almost like a pep talk ("Jimmy Wilson, next to you, isn't looking at you. Jimmy Wilson, next to me , isn't looking at me . It's me, Jimmy, me. Rose "). By the end of the first chapter, the cadence of the words flows smoothly, and readers vicariously experience the claustrophobic quarters of Rose's mind. McGhee writes confidently as one who remembers the ordinariness of adolescence as well as its angst, especially the need to focus on details when one is in deep pain. As in Snap and Shadow Baby , the author compellingly creates another protagonist blindsided by loss. Rose draws a parallel between the last seconds before the crash and the moments before Pompeii was destroyed, as she struggles to make the loss of her sister comprehensible in a world that often is not. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)