Grade Range: 7 up
Age Range: 12 up
8.2 x 5.4 x 1 inches
If you look inside Lizzie Cohen’s high school locker you will see that her world is falling apart. First you will find the unfinished homework assignments and crumpled tests with failing grades and furious teacher comments scrawled in red pen. Then you will see the crushed coffee cups and half eaten bags of chips. Look closer. On the top shelf, beneath an old sweater she is hiding something. A secret. It is a battered journal that used to belong to her older sister Tess, who died six years ago when they were little girls. It is filled with Tess’s poems and sketches, a record of a time long ago when Lizzie almost believed in magic—back when she did everything her sister asked her to do, even if it meant putting herself in danger. The journal is also an account of one child’s mind teetering on the brink between make-believe and something much more frightening and serious—a time when Lizzie was ready to grow up but Tess was still clinging to her belief in magic like it was the only thing in the world that mattered. Now Lizzie is using the journal to come to terms with the terrible guilt of her own survival. She will need to learn that sometimes growing up means letting go—even if that means saying goodbye forever.
Excerpt from Without Tess
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved
Everything in the child’s room tells us she is coming back. The white nightgown is washed and hung neatly on a hook. The undershirts and panties and the pure white tube socks are still in the laundry basket. The pillowcase smells like her hair. If you lie down on the bed, with your face on the pillow and breathe in, it is the living scent of her skin that comes to you. The smell of her asleep and breathing deeply. And if you wander around in bare feet so that your toes sink into the carpet, if you wander around and touch things with the very tips of your fingers, let them glide like feathers across her quilt, her walls, her desk, her dresser, if you spin very fast in circles the way she always used to do, and let the death-room swirl around you like a cocoon wrapping you in white silk threads, you could imagine that at any moment, she is going to explode through the door, laughing with her mouth wide open at the perfection of this final joke.
But it is not a joke. Because downstairs there is a Rabbi sitting with your parents at the kitchen table, and they are talking about what he should say — about how he should focus on who she was when she was alive, before things got bad . . . and I am standing in her room and I am Lizzie without Tess. I am Lizzie without Tess. I am Lizzie without Tess. And I am real. And she is gone.