Crutcher, Chris. 1993. Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Chris Crutcher has written a suspenseful and compelling story about friendship and loyalty. This story will hold the reader’s interest from beginning to end.
Staying Fat for Sarah Bynes involves two unlikely types of characters that a reader will not often find in literature,
a boy with a weight problem and a girl with a badly scarred face. Eric Calhoune
is called Mobey because he is referred to the great whale “Moby Dick.” He
has had a weight problem all his life and has had to deal with all the taunting and teasing because of it. Sarah Bynes carried scars on her face and hands that she got from a childhood accident when she was only
three years old. Her father refused to get reconstructive surgery for her. Sarah has had to deal with people not wanting to be her friend and not wanting to
look at her face. Their outcast status made them friends throughout grade school.
In high school Mobey joins the swim team and starts to shed some of his weight.
Worried that this will affect his valued friendship with Sarah, he eats enormous amounts of food. Sarah is dealing with some serious issues of her own. She
ends up in the hospital in a catatonic state. Mobey goes to visit her. He discovers her dark secret of how she got burned and that she fears her father will hurt her again so
she is faking it. She does not want Mobey to tell anyone. Publisher’s Weekly
says about the plot, “When Sarah abruptly stops talking and is committed to a mental ward, Eric is compelled to take
action to help her, but quickly finds that he is in over his head. He risks their friendship by breaking his vow of secrecy
and enlisting others' aid--help that comes from such unlikely quarters as a former bully, Eric's swim coach and, most surprisingly,
his mother's seemingly wimpy boyfriend. A subplot centering on a self-righteous teammate drives home the point that nothing
is as it appears on the surface, and leads to Eric being caught between his menacing vice-principal and the even more malevolent
Mr. Byrnes--with spine-tingling results.”
In this story Mobey makes some discoveries about himself and others. During
a class while discussing the issue of abortion, he stands up to a hypocritical
young man whose girlfriend had an abortion. He finds a girl who likes him and
he has success with his swimming. He learns an important lesson in respect from
his mother’s boyfriend. Most importantly, he helps Sarah Bynes get away from her cruel father and get her life turned
around. Life is about growing and changing and these characters provide readers with someone to identify.
Publisher’s Weekly says that the “Superb plotting, extraordinary characters and crackling narrative make
this novel one to be devoured in a single unforgettable sitting.” This
is definitely one that you won’t be able to put down!
Nixon, Joan Lowery. 1998. The Haunting. New York: Del Laurel-Leaf. ISBN:
This ghost story set in contemporary times is sure to keep its reader wanting to find out what happens.
Lia, the main protagonist, is fifteen. Throughout the years all the women
in her family have been known for their bravery and accomplishments. She refers
to them as belonging with their names on a banner that says, “Women Who Are Exceptionally Brave.” Lia is not like that she is timid and loves to read books.
Her mom inherits Graymoss from her grandmother. Graymoss is a plantation
house that has been in the family since it was built before the Civil War by Placide Blevins.
When Placide Blevins is killed by a union soldier, his granddaughter Charlotte inherits the house. She wrote in a diary relating what events had occurred that brought about the death of her grandfather
and the problems they had with an evil overseer, Morgan Slade. Morgan Slade had
stolen all their valuables and ran away. As he was dying, he told her the answer was in a book that he handed to her by Edgar
Allan Poe. That night Charlotte tried to stay in the house but found after dark
evil spirits would possess the house. In all the proceeding years no one would
spend a whole night in the house.
Lia’s mom wants to make her dream come true to make Graymoss a home for unadoptable children. She does not believe in ghosts and will not listen to Lia. At
first Lia does not want to leave her friend Jolie and share her parents. After
meeting some of the children at the home, she changes her mind. She decides she
must rid the house of the evil spirit so her mom’s dream could become a reality for the children.
In the satisfying ending, Lia finds the answer to the evil in the house and discovers Morgan Slade’s remains
walled off in the wine cellar. She rids the house of the evil. She realizes that
she is brave like the women in her family have been through the years. She belongs
on the banner. Many readers can identify with Lia and the her growth toward finding herself.
This fast paced story will keep the reader compelled to finish.