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One for Sorrowby Christopher Barzak
Synopses & Reviews
Part thriller, part ghost tale, part love story, One for Sorrow is a novel as timeless as The Catcher in the Rye and as hauntingly lyrical as The Lovely Bones. Christopher Barzaks stunning debut tells of a teenage boys coming-of-age that begins with a shocking murder and ends with a reason to hope.
Adam McCormick had just turned fifteen when the body was found in the woods. It is the beginning of an autumn that will change his life forever. Jamie Marks was a boy a lot like Adam, a boy no one paid much attention to—a boy almost no one would truly miss. And for the first time, Adam feels he has a purpose. Now, more than ever, Jamie needs a friend.
But the longer Adam holds on to Jamies ghost, the longer he keeps his friend tethered to a world where he no longer belongs…and the weaker Adams own ties to the living become. Now, to find his way back, Adam must learn for himself what it truly means to be alive.
"'Death forges a supernatural bond between two lonely teenage boys in Barzak's well-intentioned and morbid first novel. Fifteen-year-old Adam McCormick is haunted by the earthbound ghost of his murdered classmate, Jamie Marks. Boy and ghost are drawn to one another by their shared outsider status at school, with the ghost providing support (and a surprising homoerotic romance subplot) for Adam as he survives a disastrous relationship with the sexually predatory Gracie (the classmate who discovered Jamie's body), a scary encounter with the ghost of a murderess and a troubled home life with his older brother and constantly arguing parents. Adam and Jamie's ghost eventually run away and find shelter in an abandoned church, where Adam is tempted to join Jamie, and Jamie delays moving to the next level in the afterlife. Barzak admirably defies convention by not having the two boys search for Jamie's killer, but the replacement plot — one of a bizarre coming-of-age — doesn't always meld well with the narrative's fantastical elements (closets, called dead space, are portals between worlds; ghosts burn memories to keep warm). The macabre tone won't work for readers looking for another Lovely Bones, but the novel's approach to familiar material is refreshing. (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"When one of his high school classmates is killed, Adam McCormick finds himself spending most of his time with the dead. Though he was not close to Jamie before his murder, Adam bonds with the ghost from the first moment they fall together into Jamie's grave. Adam isn't the only one being haunted in Christopher Barzak's remarkable first novel. With rain falling through his transparent... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) form, Jamie stands below the window of Gracie, the girl who discovered his corpse, until she befriends him. But unlike Adam, who craves Jamie's company, Gracie soon decides to stop seeing the ghost. Repelled by his dysfunctional family, Adam begins dividing his time between these two: Gracie, the object of his desire, and Jamie, the closest thing he has to a best friend. Communing with Jamie, slipping through the backs of closets into 'dead space,' visiting the spirit of a homicidal child — these things start to eat away at Adam's tether to all things earthly. He loses not only his appetite, but also his ability to taste and smell and feel. His flesh cools, his breath no longer steams in the winter air. Eventually, Adam runs away from home, away from the pain of his life, and sets up camp with Jamie in a world half in and half out of death. Traveling through this story with Adam is like a nightmare, but the kind that fascinates you so deeply that when you wake up, you grab the first person you see and tell him about it. The language is deceptively simple. Barzak writes about the supernatural with fearless originality. The ghost doesn't appear to Adam as a specter glimpsed in a mirror or reflected in the bathtub water; instead, the dead boy, naked and wearing the grit of the grave between his teeth, climbs onto Adam's back and rides him through the woods to the abandoned crime scene. Jamie can temporarily re-warm his dead flesh by choosing one of his memories and burning it from within, a page of his life lost forever. He begins with the memory of who murdered him. The portrait of Adam's family is also unexpected. What drives Adam crazy is not so much that his mother is bound to a wheelchair as that she becomes best friends with the drunk driver who caused her accident. And the love story is just as fresh. When Gracie introduces Adam to sex, he decides she smells like a sunflower, not the plant but the word 'sunflower.' 'One for Sorrow' is ultimately a coming-of-age story, more melancholy than morbid and, by the end, profoundly hopeful. The writing is beautiful, honest and heartbreaking. Sometimes it takes a character infatuated with death to remind us why life matters. Laura Whitcomb is the author of the young adult ghost story 'A Certain Slant of Light.'" Reviewed by Laura Whitcomb, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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Barzaks delicately wrought debut novel is a poignant coming-of-age tale with the emotional resonance of "The Lovely Bones" and the rough edges of "The Catcher in the Rye."
About the Author
Christopher Barzak was born and raised in rural Ohio, has lived in a southern California beach town, the capital of Michigan and the suburbs of Tokyo, Japan, where he taught English in rural junior high and elementary schools. His stories have appeared in many venues, including Lady Churchills Rosebud Wristlet, Trampoline, Interfictions, Nerve, Salon Fantastique and The Years Best Fantasy and Horror. Currently he lives in Youngstown, Ohio, where he teaches writing at Youngstown State University. One for Sorrow is his first novel.
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