|Kimberly Willis Holt: Keeper of the Night|
Holt and Company (Hardcover), ISBN 0805063617
Kimberly Willis Holt sets her latest novel for young people on the island of Guam and chooses Isabel Moreno to narrate the short, journal-like chapters. The 13-year-old's sadness, her sense of responsibility about all the terrible things that crash down on her family and the final healing make this a book to break your heart.
Isabel's ordinary teenage life, filled with friends, school, and meddling relatives, changes the moment she finds her mother dead and a bottle of sleeping pills by her side. Now Isabel struggles to remember her mother and to try to take her place.
Her young sister Olivia wakes each night with nightmares and a wet bed. Her father refuses to sleep in the bed he shared with his wife. Isabel finds him curled up on the cold floor and covers him with a blanket. Isabel's brother, 12-year-old Frank, once told knock-knock jokes. Now he closes his bedroom door to the rest of his family and carves "I Hate You'" into the wall. When Frank changes from carving the wall to cutting himself, Isabel acknowledges the weight of the burden she carries.
As Isabel searches her house for any sign of happy memories, she finally brings herself to confront the reasons her mother took her own life. Finding and reading the childhood stories her mother had tied up in a yellow ribbon and saved in a drawer, Isabel begins to recover.
Keeper of the Night is a serious book written in a way sure to appeal to its target audience of 12- to 18-year-olds. The short chapters, some less than a page, others a spare poem or brief list, create an atmosphere and sense of immediacy. National Book Award (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town) winner Kimberly Willis Holt lived on Guam as a young girl, and the island left its mark on her. Cockfights, fiestas, aunties who work their magic and stir up local dishes give this novel a strong sense of place.
Sensuous, poetic, even humorous, this story of a young girl struggling to keep her family together through their tragedy ends with hope and the realization that characters like Isabel and books like Keeper of the Night do sometimes have happy endings.
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