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Circle Nineby Anne Heltzel
Synopses & Reviews
Who was Abby then? Who is Abby now? An unsettling psychological thriller, seen through a lost girl's eyes.
She knows only Sam, a mysterious teenage boy. He is her sole companion; her whole life. She was born, already a teenager, lying outside a burning building in soot-stained clothes, remembering nothing, not even her name. He showed her the necklace she had on, the one that named her: Abby. Sam brought her to live in his cavepalace, where he gives her everything she needs. He loves her. He protects her from the world outside, from everyone who wants to hurt them, like the denizens of Circle Nine, Dante's deepest circle of hell. But even in a charmed, brand-new life like Abby's, change will come. Sam falls ill. A new girl comes to stay, and Abby begins to question Sam's devotion. With doubt comes emotional turmoil, changes in perception, and glimpses of her past identity. In this courageous psychological thriller, Abby tells the story of living her new life and discovering her old one, while grappling with an ever-changing reality.
"Abby has no clear memory of her life before Sam, with whom she lives in a cave that usually seems like a 'palace.' There, he reads Dante's Inferno to her and warns her that the outside world is Circle Nine, the worst part of hell. He assures Abby that she is safe, but she sees momentary flashes of their luxurious lair 'strewn with garbage and threadbare blankets and stained sheets.' There are other mysteries, too: Abby sketches a girl repeatedly, dreams of her, and gains new memories; eventually she ventures out into Circle Nine to discover her painful past. Readers will race through the first part of this imaginative psychological drama, trying to determine what is real and why Abby's memory is so damaged, though the story's intrigue lessens after the mystery is revealed. Still, debut author Heltzel layers her story with questions about guilt, identity, and survival, leading to Abby's insight that 'you can never just have good or bad, one or the other. They're both there, all the time, in Circle Nine or in my head.' Despite the story's darkness, the conclusion points to a hopeful path forward for Abby. Ages 14 — up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When your whole life has vanished and only one person knows who you are . . . don’t you have to believe him?
Abby doesn’t remember what happened the night she woke up in soot-stained clothes, lying next to a burning building with an unfamiliar boy at her side. But her connection with Sam is immediate and intense. And she has no one else: no family, no home, not even a last name.
She and Sam start a new life, just the two of them, and Abby’s deliriously happy. Until memories from her past begin to haunt her — and suddenly everything she’s learned to love turns sinister. It’s only a matter of time before her reality cracks apart.
About the Author
Anne Heltzel earned an MFA in creative writing from the New School. She says of her debut novel: "I wrote Circle Nine shortly after moving to Mumbai, India, where I lived for a year and a half. It was a surreal and isolating experience at first, giving up my job and friends to move to a country I'd never even seen before. Nevertheless, the magic of the city was ever-present; my reality had, in a sense, changed entirely. This all contributed to the creation of Sam and Abby's cave-palace." Anne Heltzel lives in New York City.
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