Three teens tell their stories, in free verse, from a psychiatric hospital after failed suicide attempts. Their lives unfold in alternating chapters, revealing emotionally scarred family relationships. An absent father, a bipolar mother, and a secret abortion have caused Vanessa to slash her wrists. As a compulsive cutter, she hides a paper clip to dig into her skin. Tony’s drug overdose was triggered by an addiction in which he exchanged sex for money. Abused as a child, he is confused about his sexuality. Connor is the son of rich, controlling parents, and he survives a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a doomed affair with a female teacher. Initially, the narrators are inwardly focused, having arrived at “level zero,” the beginning of their treatment. As they become acquainted with one another, the story, told in spare verse and colorful imagery, becomes more plot-driven and filled with witty dialogue. Both boys value Vanessa’s friendship and there is an inkling of competition for her affection, although she assumes that Tony is gay. During a wilderness camping trip with other patients and staff, which would graduate the trio to the final level of treatment, it becomes apparent that one of them is mentally backsliding at the thought of returning home and has stopped taking meds. The consequences are played out, leaving the others to grapple with an additional loss and a newfound appreciation for life.
Archive for the ‘It could be verse’ Category
When my dad heard my brother call me
‘Jack, we don’t say that word in this house.’
So Jack walked quickly out the back door
Stood in the yard
And yelled at me,
In his best older brother voice!
Untangling Spaghetti is a coll
Love That Dog is the story of Jack, his dog, his teacher, and words. The story develops through Jack’s responses to his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, over the course of a school year. At first, his responses are short and cranky: “I don’t want to” and “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty.” But as his teacher feeds him inspiration, Jack finds that he has a lot to say and he finds ways to say it.
Jack is both stubborn and warm-hearted, and he can be both serious and funny. Although he hates poetry at first, he begins to find poems that inspire him. All year long, he is trying to find a way to talk about his beloved dog, Sky, and the poems his teacher offers him eventually give him a way to do that.
Jack becomes especially fond of a poem by Walter Dean Myers titled “Love That Boy,” and it is this poem that finally gives Jack a way to tell the whole story of his dog, Sky. In gratitude, Jack invites Walter Dean Myers to visit his class.
Three boys – Bram, Al and Gabe – are drawn together by their common lack of wholeness. Bram plans incredible parties which take place in various houses – wherever there is a parentless house for the weekend. The parties are wild and amazing, planned to precision. Bram even takes preparatory photographs to make sure the house is returned to the state in which it was found.
One night, Helen comes to one of the parties. She is not the sort of girl Gabe likes – her face is deformed. But she sees through him and sees the void where his heart should be. She is drawn to him and they connect.
Helen’s life is changed irrevocably by that meeting, but Gabe’s continues on as before. Until one night the secret world he shares with his two friends tumbles down.