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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor


SYNOPSIS: Abigail Reed and her younger sister, Becky, are always at each other's throats. Their mother calls them the September Sisters, because their birthdays are only a day apart, and pretends that they're best friends. But really, they delight in making each other miserable. Then Becky disappears in the middle of the night, and a torn gold chain with a sapphire heart charm is the only clue to the mystery of her kidnapping. Abby struggles to cope with her own feelings of guilt and loss as she tries to keep her family together. When her world is at its bleakest, Abby meets a new neighbor, Tommy, who is dealing with his own loss, and the two of them discover that love can bloom, even when it's surrounded by thorns.

This exquisitely written first novel illustrates life as it truly is—filled with fear and danger, hope and love, comfort and uncertainty.

REVIEW: The September Sisters is Jillian Cantor's stunning debut novel. The raw emotions of love and loss were so honest that I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn't help but become attached to Abby. I thought the way Jillian Cantor crafted the opening scene was extremely clever. To find out what happened to Becky ahead of time and then be transported back to the night of the disappearance made the story more poignant too.

Abby alternated between conflicting emotions in the aftermath of her sisters' disappearance. These feelings (including resentment, heartbreak, uselessness) were very understandable and made the story more real to me. Her sister's disappearance overshadowed every future interaction (or lack thereof) with her parents. There was one point where Abby wanted to scream at her parents, "I'm still HERE!" Cantor doesn't hold back and I kept wondering if Abby's parents were ever going to wake up and realize that their other daughter desperately needed them too.

The first love element was a much needed bright spot in Abby's life and had all the awkwardness of adolescence. It never felt false or forced to me. I did keep picturing Abby to be more of a sixteen year old in my mind though. On the other hand, I'm sure that going through what she did would definitely make a person grow up pretty fast. I do think it was smart of Cantor to work Abby’s relationship with Tommy into the novel. In those little moments you could feel some sunshine coming back into Abby's life and it helped keep the novel from becoming too dark.

The September Sisters is a novel that stays with you long after you have turned the last page. Jillian Cantor has an amazing writing style. She knows how to paint a vivid picture of what is going on and it really grabs the reader’s full attention. The plot moved very quickly and it didn't take numerous chapters to get into the real "meat" of the story either. This was a family that tried to pick up the pieces after a devastating loss but never fully recovered. I told myself that I was not going to get emotional, and I did well until the very last paragraph. It was so masterfully written that it touched a nerve within me and I couldn't help wipe away a tear or two!

After reading The September Sisters, I can't wait to read Jillian Cantor's future novels, including The Life of Glass!

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 Pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061686484
ISBN-13: 978-0061686481
Buy at Amazon, Borders, Books-a-Million, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University. She received her MFA from The University of Arizona and was the recipient of the national Jacob K. Javits fellowship. Her first novel, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, was called "memorable" and "startlingly real" by Publishers Weekly and was nominated as a YALSA Best Book For Young Adults. Her second novel, THE LIFE OF GLASS, will be available from Harperteen in February 2010, and her debut novel for adults, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, will be available from Avon/HarperCollins in Fall 2010. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Visit Jillian at her Official Website & Blog


Tales of Whimsy said...

Sounds lovely. I love the cover.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Haven't heard about this one before, but the cover caught my eye. The book sounds very touching, and thanks for the review.

Natalie said...

Hmmm...I haven't heard about this one, but your review has convinced me to add it to my TBR list. I'm intrigued to see if it's as good as you say it is! Thanks for the post!

~Natalie (Mindful Musings)

Anonymous said...

One of the best books I've read this year. I agree so much with your review.:D

Sarah said...

Thanks for the review! The September Sisters sounds like a great book. :)

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Your review has convinced me to check this one out. Thanks!