Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

Title: In Leah's Wake
Author: Terri Giuliano Long
Format: UK Revised Edition eBook
Source: Tour (Belated)

Description: The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine—more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years—just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly “together” kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong. Can this family survive in Leah’s wake?

Margot Livesey, award-winning author of Banishing Verona, calls In Leah's Wake "a beautifully written and absorbing novel."

What happens when love just isn't enough?

In Leah’s Wake is more than just a clever title. In Leah’s Wake swings a dark spotlight on a crumbling family, revealing the broad cracks within its foundation. As a teen subjected to society’s pressures to slip into a cookie cutter, Leah rebels against the life planned for her in a desperate attempt to identify herself as the real Leah – and create an identity beyond the unbending expectations of parents who never asked what she wanted. Her parents’ marriage will self-destruct, her peer-group will transform into a hurricane of negative influences, her existence will darken, and her neglected little sister – the struggling, invisible, wounded Justine - will be left in Leah’s wake to pick up the shattered pieces.
Multiple points of view contribute to a fantastically rounded story, accentuating the remarkable “domino effect” of Leah’s rebellion amongst the tangible world at her fingertips. Mother, father, sister, boyfriend are unable to dodge the blows. Isolated in a small-town, oppressed in a family of already strained relationships, everything from discarding the soccer team and amazing grades to indulging in substance-abuse to reckless experimentation to the growing distance shuddering inside Leah herself has devastating aftershocks. The author doesn’t pretend destruction is graceful– and that’s courageous and talented in and of itself.
The creative detail is perfect, constructing a world so real it seems unfathomable it could be the brain-child of fiction. It’s a brilliant story, and not only did I genuinely enjoyed the author’s voice, but I was fascinated by the characters – even as they spiraled into darkness. It’s heart wrenching, it’s gritty, it’s real, and it’s blunt – and beautifully so. A distinct intelligence is woven within the text, and an understanding of people, their psychology, and their destruction molds the piece into a work of art.
When discovering that this novel is an indie-published work, the plane of success achieved seems astounding – but after reading it, the success isn’t unbelievable at all – it’s the novel itself that is incredible. Beautifully written and impeccably bold, In Leah’s Wake has grasped a level of significance that has been lacking in even the most popular contemporary works. It’s the kind of book that leaves an impression on the reader – an impression that makes a statement on society, on life, and on the unspoken but undeniable problem with modern adolescence.
Although the age of the main characters could categorize the book as “young adult” (not that it should ever be mistaken for the type of work capable of being “pigeonholed”), I really recommend it for a mature YA audience. As a fifteen-year-old girl, if my mother hadn’t gone to school for psychology, I don’t think I would have understood or appreciated the key concepts of the novel – in the same way that if I wasn’t an avid reader, I don’t think I would have grasped the literary significance of those concepts. For young readers: do not let this intimidate you, just be mindful of it. The stronger the piece chosen, the greater the reader. In the same way reading the works of George Orwell altered my entire understanding of society, In Leah’s Wake most definitely has the raw energy and potential necessary to be a piece that changes the way you look at the ever delicate family unit and how it exists in this fast paced, full pressured world. 
I recommend In Leah’s Wake for fans of My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Go Ask Alice (“Anonymously” written), and Charlie St. Cloud.
Highly recommended!

Where to find Terri Giuliano Long:
Amazon Paperback & Kindle


Espana said...

This book was a story of a "normal" family's struggles with a rebellious teenager and how her actions effect each member of their once picture perfect family.

I don't know if you can call it a heart-warming tale, it's more heart-wrenching. In the beginning of the book Will and Zoe have two ambitious daughters with promising futures. Leah is a star soccer player chasing an athletic scholarship and Justine, their younger daughter, is very very smart. She is one of the best in her class.

Then Leah gets involved with the wrong guy and everything begins to unravel. The author does a brilliant job showing the inner battle of a teenager who loves her parents but wants to do what she wants to do. So many times you think that Leah is on the brink of turning things around and making the right choices, only to see her turn back into all of the wrong choices.

What is true in real life is true in this book. Some families are perfect only because they haven't dealt with any real problems yet. Early on Zoe flashes back to another time in the families past where the parents picture perfect marriage wasn't perfect at all. We start to see the shaky foundation this family has and you worry at any minute that it all may crumble.

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