Death and children–not as dark as you might think

Since I’m on my way to Buffalo, NY, for my sister’s memorial service, death and how we deal with it are on my mind. Thank goodness I have my husband and children as rods I can lean against and I do have the memories of my sister’s bravery and humor in dealing with her long battle against breast cancer. So I will channel those feelings and remember the good times. May you have courage and love in whatever sorrows you may face in your lives.


This first book is a powerful read and well written. Enjoy.


Torn Away

Jennifer Brown

            Just as she ‘s about to finish her junior year in high school, Jersey Cameron’s whole life is blown away when a massive tornado wipes out a large swath of her Missouri town. Her mother and younger sister, Marin, die and then her stepfather, Ronnie, ships her off to her biological father and her paternal grandparents whom she has never met. Her remarried birth father has twin daughters who are cruel to Jersey. She sleeps on the screen porch of her grandparents’ seriously overcrowded house. With the exception of her aunt, who lives in the house with her two out-of-control sons, everyone is mean to her and very unaccepting. Then she learns her parents didn’t separate in the way she had always been told; that her mother wasn’t as truthful as she could have been. Eventually she is foisted off on to her also unknown maternal grandparents, but by now is so hurt and angry and guilt-ridden for ignoring Marin, she is rude. Since her mother told her lies about them she is surprised to discover they are good people who just want to help her heal. The description of Jersey’s surviving the storm all alone in the basement of her house is electrifying and her struggle to survive the pain and suffering she endures is emotionally powerful. The book is a good read and the characters are well defined.

BIBLIO: 2014, Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, Ages 13 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-316-24553-1

ISBN: 978-0-316-24551-7


Because her father’s reaction to her mother’s drug death leaves Emma pretty much a hostage, I included this book because of the message that the death of one person affects those around her.



Ann Redisch Stampler

     The reader might say Emma Lazar is held in “protective custody” by her father, who doesn’t want his daughter to turn out like her mother—a dead addict found behind a convenience store with a needle in her now lifeless arm. And Emma has had to give up a lot: her name, Amélie; her country, Quebec, Canada; her native language, French; and her religion, Judaism. But keeping a teenage girl from going to parties or out with friends or other normal adolescent behavior generally causes rebellion. So when Emma and Dad move to L.A. for his new job and her new fancy prep school, the girl goes wild. The first day of school she meets Siobhan Lynch, who is already past wild into dangerous and she leads Emma to over-the-top behavior. She tries to resist, but is sucked into “not-a-good-girl-anymore” behavior. Siobhan makes up a French boyfriend for Emma, supposedly to protect her from snarky remarks by the school’s mean girls. Of course, this keeps the school’s hottest guy, Dylan, from showing an interest in Emma. At Siobhan’s prodding, Emma’s behavior is increasingly dangerous. She sneaks out her bedroom window, frequently drinks too much, and tries drugs. Siobhan needles Emma into losing her virginity. By the time the notorious prom “Afterparty” rolls around, Siobhan has made Emma promise that if they aren’t ecstatically happy at the party, they should jump off the roof of the hotel. When Siobhan drags her to the roof, Emma resists her friend’s attempt to push over her over the side. Siobhan jumps over herself and survives. Siobhan refuses to be Emma’s friend, because she didn’t keep her promise to jump. This is a cautionary tale for both parents and children.

BIBLIO: 2014, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc., Ages 14 +. $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2324-4


Though a bit outlandish, this book does have the good message that those of us who remain living after the death of someone dear to us must learn to move on. Holding on to the past does no one any good.


Cold Kiss

Amy Garvey

      Wren inherited magical powers from her mother and grandmother. If she’s angry, things tend to catch on fire or be hurled across the room by using the energy in her body. But Wren gets carried away when her boyfriend, Danny, dies in a car crash. She misses him so much, she casts a spell and brings him out of his grave, but not really back to life. Obviously, Danny must stay out of sight—most people freak out around the “undead.” Wren soon learns the Danny she brought back isn’t the Danny she loved and soon he begins to chafe at being stuck in a garage attic. Her two best girl friends are bewildered, hurt, and then angry about Wren’s refusal to hang out with them, but she can’t let them in on the secret and she can’t leave Danny alone too much. Plus her mother is being closed mouthed about their powers, which frustrates Wren, especially when she sees her younger sister, Robin, beginning to develop powers of her own. To top off her miseries, Wren is befriended by Gabriel—a new boy in school—who happens to have psychic powers of his own and for whom she begins to fall. She finally realizes the selfish mistake she made by bringing Danny back as he begins to remember more about his death and searches out a new spell to put him back in his grave. The book is a good read, with a compelling narrative and plenty of angst. It could be a good jumping off point for a philosophical discussion of what is life and is there a soul, not to mention how to deal with death.

BIBLIO: 2011, Harper/Teen/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-06-199622-1


Again, please feel free to leave me your comments. Thanks for reading me. Sarah

2 thoughts on “Death and children–not as dark as you might think

  1. Hi Sarah, I’m impressed with the volume of books you read and review. I’d love to know your secret. I enjoyed reading these reviews and browsing through some of your earlier ones. My book, Crazy, comes out in Oct. and would love to be reviewed if you are so inclined!

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