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Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.

***1/2

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

By Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of 17 books, including The Sandcastle Girls (**** SELECTION Sept/Oct 2012), Midwives (1997), and The Light in the Ruins (2013). He lives in Vermont with his wife and their daughter.

THE STORY: Sixteen-year-old Emily lives a privileged, but lonely, life in a working-class town in northern Vermont, where her parents are senior officers of a nuclear power plant. Emily and her parents cope with their unhappiness in different ways: Emily by reading poetry and her parents by drinking. But an inevitable plant accident throws the town into chaos: sirens sound, Emily's high school is evacuated, and her parents are killed by the disaster. Now the entire nation will remember her parents as the ones responsible. Emily escapes the commotion and reinvents herself in the seedy underworld of Burlington. Here, grieving, homeless, and afraid, Emily meets Cameron, an abused young runaway. Though their circumstances are desperate, the mother-child bond that grows between them becomes their greatest source of strength in their struggle for survival and healing.

Doubleday. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780385534833

St. Louis Post-Dispatch ****

"Bohjalian fills this book with current references--to Fukushima, to iPads and, masterfully, to the Newtown school shootings, which is where the book gets its title. Readers may be upset with some of Emily's choices, but this is a brilliant story of a young woman living an unexpected life, making difficult decisions and dealing with an ugly aftermath." AMANDA ST. AMAND

Washington Post ****

"Suspenseful, provocative, often terrifying yet compassionate, it pushes a variety of hot buttons--child homelessness, mental illness, nuclear energy--all while creating one of the most memorable teenage protagonists in recent fiction. Although it is not written or marketed as a young adult novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands should garner a large audience of savvy young readers as well as captivate Bohjalian's existing army of adult fans." ELIZABETH HAND

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ***1/2

"Close Your Eyes is a novel for adults--I don't think Emily Shepard has enough control over her own fate to label this book YA. But readers of any age who love John Green's novels might also find Shepard's story, sobering as it is, an awesome one." JIM HIGGINS

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ***1/2

"It's possible to view Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands as sounding an alarm on the many disasters facing this generation: teenage homelessness, prostitution and sex trafficking, drug addiction, environmental and energy crises, school shootings, absentee parents. ... While Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a sad novel (and one that brings back the fear and uncertainty associated with the memories of those who, like me, remember the Three Mile Island disaster of 35 years ago), it reminds us of our innate need for connection." MELISSA M. FIRMAN

USA Today ***1/2

"In the end, it's a novel about survival and the power of literature and poetry. ... The novel won't appeal to readers who like the idea of nuclear power or are turned off by coarse language." BOB MINZESHEIMER

Miami Herald **1/2

"As gritty as Emily's life has become, the author never seems quite able to enter into it. Instead, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands often reads like a checklist of hot young-adult subjects rather than as a fully integrated novel." ELLEN KANNER

CRITICAL SUMMARY

Bohjalian is known for serious books with topical relevance and gripping stories. With Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, he "takes it [his work] to another level," and the result is "chilling and heartbreaking" (USA Today), "haunting and resonant" (Miami Herald). Though Bohjalian's choice of big issues for his subject matter is perhaps a bit contrived and didactic, he "writes about the nuclear aftermath in a scrupulously realistic way," avoiding any dystopian undertones (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). Instead, the heart of the novel concerns an ordinary teenager (typically troubled, but nonetheless hopeful, smart, and courageous) navigating the emotional and physical aftermath of large-scale catastrophe and terrible personal loss. While it might have benefited from more supporting characters, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands conveys the value of establishing emotional bonds in a callous world, a message that may resonate with today's readers.

RATINGS

***** CLASSIC a timeless book to be read by all

**** EXCELLENT one of the best of its genre

*** GOOD enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre

** FAIR some problems, approach with caution

* POOR not worth your time
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Publication:Bookmarks
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2014
Words:726
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