Reviews for Counting Back from Nine


Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
The dissolution of Laren's closest friendships begins after she steals her friend's boyfriend, Scott; things get worse when her father is hurt in a car accident. He unexpectedly dies from complications and devastating secrets about his life are revealed. The verse narration suits Laren's character and is an effective vehicle for meditations on guilt, grief, betrayal, friendship, and self-acceptance.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
This novel in verse begins "when IT began": the dissolution of Laren's closest friendships after she steals her friend's boyfriend, Scott. The adjustment process isn't easy for Laren, and things get worse when her father is hurt in a car accident and unexpectedly dies from complications -- then worse still "when what cannot be / crashes into what is" and devastating secrets about his life are revealed. The road to healing is a difficult one (occasioning some portentousness: "there are no arrows to tell you how to get back to / where you were before"), but there are some things in Laren's life that help: she starts seeing the school psychologist; she writes a multi-part letter to her father working through her complicated grief; she forces herself to appear strong for her younger brother, Jackson; and she leans on boyfriend Scott (though readers can see that he is not adequate support and will not be surprised when his cheating ways resurface). Eventually Laren's tone sounds wiser and healthier, and the memories she zeroes in on are more positive. Sherrard has written a touching protagonist who is heartbreakingly fragile yet also strong; the verse narration suits Laren's character and is an effective vehicle for these meditations on guilt, grief, betrayal, friendship, and self-acceptance. katrina hedeen

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 6-10--Laren finds her friend status on Facebook gone from "Best Friend to Unfriend./Discarded in a single click" when she falls for her best friend's boyfriend. Scott is emotionally unresponsive; his interests are hockey and the next girlfriend, while Laren's father is her safety net. When he has a fatal accident, the hidden truths about his life gradually surface. When "what cannot be/crashes into what is," Laren experiences grief, anger, shame, and a deep sense of alienation from everything she once held to be true. Her mother focuses on externals such as home redecorating and her son's new vegetarian choice, which is unfortunately treated as a symptom of grief that he will get over. Laren succeeds in putting her world back together by coming to new truths about herself, her parents, and her friends with some help from a counselor who supports her journey of self-discovery. Eventually she gains new friends and comes to embrace the strengths of her family. Through letters and spare verse, the teen's story is propelled forward at a quick pace. This book is well suited as a low-level, high-interest read that examines the often-vulnerable nature of friendship, the pain of ostracism, and coming to terms with the realization that the lives of parents are often complicated. Pair this title with Susane Colasanti's Keep Holding On (Viking, 2012) for a girls' book discussion group. Don't forget the tissues.--Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

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