Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.

Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 288
Type: Hardcover
*This is an adult title (But a great crossover!)

Reviewed by Ellie, age 17
Apparently I really know how to pick ‘em (or at least Rachel knows how to pick ‘em and I know how to take up her offer to read ‘em), because I’ve hit a string of fabulous books to review recently. First Landline, now this? A book that is both a sucker-punch to the gut and an intriguing and unique coming-of-age novel? A book with, as far as I can tell, no flaws in writing? “Impossible!” you say. Nope. Not impossible, as Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian is all that and more.

Now, when I picked up Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, I was expecting the sort of dystopian teenage thriller that seems to crop up in the YA shelves lately. What I got was something much better; a novel so entirely plausible it’s scary. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands tells the story of Emily, a teenage girl who loses her family and home in a nuclear power plant meltdown and has to rely on only herself in order to survive. The result is heartbreaking, poignant, and utterly fantastic.

Emily is the most human protagonist that I’ve met in a long while. She is stubborn, clueless, naive, brave, troubled, caring, smart, and completely relatable though she lives in wholly different lifestyle. Through her eyes, we see the world collapse in on itself and how easily our lives can topple out of control. From a homeless shelter to a nuclear fallout zone to a hot pink convertible (yes, really), we follow Emily through her ups and downs (mostly downs-she has a very difficult life story). I felt emotionally connected to her, and when I got to the end of the novel, I felt like someone had ripped my heart into tiny, radioactive shreds of emotion for her. However, my emotions for Emily didn’t force me to ignore the secondary characters, who grew on me just as much and left me devastated or elated in turn.

It is easy to follow Emily down her path, as the writing of the book itself is flawless. No snags, dropped plotlines, or dull moments. Bohjalian gives the story to us in disjointed chunks that simultaneously satisfy and leave us craving for more, delivering plot twists right when you think you finally have the story figured out.

Finally, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands discusses some very serious topics, the least of which is the risks of nuclear energy. Child abuse, prostitution, drug use, family dynamics, terminal illness, and homelessness all play a role, leading the reader to give serious thought to what we put value on and what role we play in the world.

All I can say for this book is that it is wonderful. It isn’t light, it isn’t particularly happy, but you find yourself backing Emily through all the turmoil she goes through (and it’s a lot of turmoil), and don’t be surprised if you finish the book with an ache in your heart, the kind that only comes from reading really good literature (you know the feeling).

I recommend this book to all mature readers-go buy it now and prepare to be thoroughly engrossed.

This book is on shelves now!
Buy Hardcover | $25.95

Happy reading!
Ellie, age 17


  1. I've not heard of this one, but I do like adult crossover novels! Like The Bone Season :D Generally I don't like tough-issue contemporary novels, but I feel like adult books handling these issues are alright by me. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Ellie!

    Fabulous review!!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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~Youth Board