Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley

Release Date: October 11, 2011
Publisher: Farrer, Straus and Giroux
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: NetGalley
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository

Tess and Lizzie are sisters, sisters as close as can be, who share a secret world filled with selkies, flying horses, and a girl who can transform into a wolf  in the middle of the night. But when Lizzie is ready to grow up, Tess clings to their fantasies. As Tess sinks deeper and deeper into her delusions, she decides that she can’t live in the real world any longer and leaves Lizzie and her family forever. Now, years later, Lizzie is in high school and struggling to understand what happened to her sister. With the help of a school psychologist and Tess’s battered journal, Lizzie searches for a way to finally let Tess go.

This book was so powerful. I mean, seriously, it was scary and frightening, yet it had a certain beauty to it. Without Tess is a tale about heartbreak, imagination and the consequences you take when you go too far.
I was amazed how easily I was lost in the story. I sat there on my laptop, reading, and usually at some point I'd get distracted and read something else, but no. I just kept reading and reading, until I'd finished the book and felt the rush of emotions wash over me. The account of Lizzie is seriously heart-jerking, as you see the difficulties and pain she faced with Tess.

We meet two Lizzie's during the course of this novel. Past Lizzie and Present-day Lizzie. The past Lizzie has a much more interesting story, I have to say, but towards the end, we see Lizzie in the present developing more feelings and actually showing them. Otherwise, she's just silent, walking around school. I like how strong and independent her character grows throughout the novel, from someone being meek and shy, always worshipping Tess, to someone who can stand on her own.
Which brings me to our other character: Tess. I know Tess is like a small girl during the course of this novel, but she really really scares me. Like, scares me to the point where I actually had nightmares of her creepy drawings and poems. I couldn't imagine coping with a sister like Tess. I'd have gone mad myself or told someone at least. I can't imagine going through what Lizzie had to.

I liked the friendship between Liz and Isabella, because it seemed more real and what their age group would actually do, have fun, be little girls and not delve into the crazy imaginative world of Tess'. Niccolo was also really sweet, I liked him from the start. Great supporting characters, although I feel that her parent's could have been a little more attentive from the start.
Liz's guidance counselor sessions are also quite interesting. I like how we see the facade which Lizzie puts on throughout the day seems to 'crack' in these sessions as she goes through the Pegasus Diary with the counselor.

Marcella Pixley's writing is AMAZING. The change in perspectives, as Lizzie turns from 10 to 15, and the poems in Tess' point of view are all incredibly unique. The poems are very Tess-like, but they seem a little mature for her age. Pixley does manage to capture the true essence of Tess' nature: wild and psychotic. How Lizzie comes to terms with Tess' illness is also fantastically done, as she slowly realizes that Tess is not "normal" and her passion for imagination is going out of control.
The author does also touch upon some religious aspects, with questioning God, looking at both Jewish and Catholic religions, forgiveness and just trying to find out who you truly are.

Overall, Without Tess is brilliantly disturbing, a real eye-opener. I was horrified, touched and overwhelmed while reading this book. Definitely one of the most profound reads I've read this year so far. I enjoyed Pixley's writing and eagerly wait for more.

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1 comment:

  1. Fabulous review! I've had this book on my TBR list for a while, and now I'm even more excited to read it. I'm definitely moving it to the top of my list.


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