“Anna Shinoda’s deeply informed story is not to be missed.” —Dr. Drew Pinsky, Celebrity Rehab and Teen Mom
Family secrets cut to the bone in this mesmerizing debut novel about a teen whose drug-addicted brother is the prodigal son one time too many.
There is a pecking order to every family. Seventeen-year-old Clare is the overprotected baby; Peter is the typical, rebellious middle child; and Luke is the can’t-do-wrong favorite. In their eyes, they are a normal, happy family. But sometimes it’s the people who are closest to us who are the hardest to see.
Clare loves her older brother, Luke—it’s not his fault that he’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Life as Luke’s sister hasn’t been easy—their community hasn’t been nearly as forgiving of his transgressions as she and her parents are—but he’s done his time and is on his way home again, and she has to believe this time will be different. But when the truths behind his arrests begin to surface, everything Clare’s always known is shaken to its core.
Clare has to decide if sticking up for herself and her future means selfishly turning her back on family…or if it’s the only way to keep herself from drowning along with them.
Shinoda's auspicious debut opens with 17-year-old Clare's patchy childhood memory of finding blood in her home. The chapters alternate between Clare's present life in which she's a diligent student, lifeguard, and all-around good kid and her sometimes tender but often unsettling memories of her older brother Luke, a charming yet destructive drug addict. For years, the family has been plagued by Luke, now 29, who has repeatedly been jailed for violence and theft. Now, Luke is home again, and Clare hopes that Skeleton, a manifestation of her repressed memories, "will go away, the whispers will stop, and my favorite memories of Luke will snap together perfectly with the present." Instead, Luke's delinquency resumes and her parents once again protect him, leaving Clare to decide how to escape the shadow Luke casts over her life. With the aim of helping readers similarly burdened by the guilt of putting one's own needs first, Shinoda explores the intricate web of sibling dynamics and the devastation of addiction. Despite the painful subject matter, witnessing Clare's growing sense of self-worth is uplifting. Ages 14 up.