Heather Demetrios's Little Universes is a book about the powerful bond between sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.
One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.
When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles with secrets their parents’ death has brought to light, and with their uncertainty about the future. Instead of bringing them closer, it feels like the wave has torn the sisters apart.
Hannah is a secret poet who wants to be seen, but only knows how to hide. The pain pills she stole from her dead father hurl her onto the shores of an addiction she can’t shake and a dealer who turns her heart upside down. When it’s clear Hannah’s drowning, Mae, a budding astronaut suddenly launched into an existential crisis—and unexpected love—must choose between herself and the only family she has left.
Seventeen-year-old sisters Mae and Hannah narrate the tumultuous year following their parents' death by tsunami in this overlong tale of sisterhood and survival by Demetrios (Bad Romance). Both sisters enter into the event with existing trauma: Mae was adopted as a three-year old "after my biological mother officially chose drugs over me," while Hannah struggles with an opiate pill addiction and unresolved grief over an abortion. Uprooted from California to an aunt and uncle's Boston home, they resume familiar patterns, with poetic, tarot-card-loving Hannah using and contemplating suicide, and analytical, aspiring astronaut Mae willing to sacrifice her dreams to help her sister. Both wrestle with feelings of worthlessness: Hannah thinks she's a "loser piece-of-shit junkie," while Mae's fear of abandonment ("Everyone I love leaves me") leads her to control rather than trust. While the sisters' extensive self-analysis and parallel romantic problems (each finds a doting potential boyfriend whom they hold at arm's length) can feel repetitious, Demetrios skillfully illustrates the pain of addiction and challenge of recovery for a whole family, as well as the emotional turmoil that follows a sudden death. Ages 14 up.