Friday, September 10, 2021

Review: Blister by Susan Shreve

Kids have to deal with a lot of things in their lives that they have no control over. Some of these things they understand and some they only partially understand, while others may be completely beyond their grasp. In Susan Shreve's novel, Blister, tween main character Alyssa is faced with all of the above and has to muster the resilience to make it through.

The book opens with the stillborn birth of Alyssa Reed's little sister. This loss cracks open the already fragile state of her family's life together with her mother plunging into deep depression and her father moving out (and moving on with someone else). Having to start a new school on top of the loss of the baby and her parents' separation is a lot for any one fifth grader to handle. Renaming herself Blister, she decides she's going to do things her way from now on, including stealing clothes, makeup, and jewelry from her father's girlfriend in the hopes of breaking them up, trying out for the cheerleading squad, even if it is just a popularity contest, and generally taking advantage of the neglect of her parents. She's also going to create a new persona in school. Luckily Blister has her grandmother to lean on when she really needs to and to explain in an age appropriate way the things that Blister just doesn't completely understand.

There were so many issues here, grief, depression, a mental health crisis, divorce, infidelity, cliques, neglect, and more, that it felt like a sort of pile on even though Blister didn't realize the extent of the everything. She also came across as rather precocious and unrealistic for an up to now fairly sheltered ten year old. She shows her resilience and elasticity in the end but even that felt sad on top of so much other sadness along the way. I'm uncertain if I'd hand this to kids Blister's age, not because the issues are tough but because the nuances make it more mature. Tweens probably won't recognize that baby Lila Rose was supposed to save the Reed's faltering marriage nor the depth of the neglect Blister experiences from both of her parents (her mother because of her deep depression and her father because of his affair) but that doesn't make this tale of a young girl trying to find herself in the midst of such terrible tragedy and sadness any less troubling.

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