Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived.
Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him.
Then one night Rusty is wheeled into the ER, burned on half his body by hateful classmates. His agony calls out to Drew like a beacon, pulling them both together through all their pain and grief. In Rusty, Drew sees hope, happiness, and a future for both of them. A future outside the hospital, and away from their pasts.
But Drew knows that life is never that simple. Death roams the hospital, searching for Drew, and now Rusty. Drew lost his family, but he refuses to lose Rusty, too, so he’s determined to make things right. He’s determined to bargain, and to settle his debts once and for all.
But Death is not easily placated, and Drew’s life will have to get worse before there is any chance for things to get better.
This book is the kind of book that blindsides you on an idle Sunday morning.
And that’s not me trying to write a flouncy opening to a review while toeing the line of plagiarising Mary Schmich.
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley really did blindside me on an idle Sunday morning.
I read this book in about three hours. I started it on Saturday night in an “Oh, I’ll just start it and then I’ll finish it whenever” and next thing I know, I had demolished a hundred pages and I was truly, utterly captivated. It’s been a while since I entertained the idea of inhaling a book in one sitting.
Unfortunately, and through no fault of the book, I fell asleep but I set my alarm at seven (well OK half eight) to read it.
And gosh. I can’t remember the last time I was this thoroughly taken by a book. And taken is the only way I can describe how I felt after this book.
I was taken on this weird and wonderful and odd journey by a boy who lives in a hospital after his family die in a car crash. I was taken away from my world and I got tangled up in his emotions: his guilt, his fear, his wrecking grief, his joy, his sorrow and, most wonderfully, his love. I was taken by his fury and his passion.
I was taken by the characters he meets: Rusty, the boy who is brought into A&E after suffering horrific burns, Trevor and Lexi, the nurses, the doctors, the cafe workers and, most intriguingly, Death. High-heeled and composed, she stalks the corridors, looking to take Andrew. She was late last time but Andrew doubts she’ll miss him next time.
I was taken by the addition of the glorious comic book that complimented the story so well. And that made me sniffle at the end few panels.
I know, I know. I am no longer a heartless Northerner.
And I was taken by one of the most interesting contemporary settings I’ve read in fiction. I’ve always been fascinated by YA books that are set in enclosed scenarios and this book is solely set in a hospital. It’s clinical and it’s harsh but it allows SDH to really explore these characters and let them thrive, driving the story through heartbreak and wonder.
I was also taken by SDH’s ability to write a story that shouldn’t work. It should be boring. It should be pretentious. It should be saccharine and eye-rolling. But it was none of those things. From the get go (and I mean it! From the very first sentence and what a first sentence!) I was drawn in and it defied every cliché I thought it was going to adopt.
You can probably tell I loved this book. It’s unique and challenging and it made me feel like this is the direction that YA fiction should be heading in.
Read this book. Seriously. Read it and be taken.