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by Katherine Spencer
Harcourt, 2006
Review by Amy Ridley on Apr 29th 2008

Saving Grace

Grace is beginning her junior year after suffering the loss of her brother over the summer. She has avoided her three best friends and fells like she may have outgrown them. She cannot get enthusiastic about any of the gossip they are talking about. Grace has the opportunity to hang out with the most popular girls in school when she is paired up with Dana for a semester long assignment. She takes special interest in this project  even though she's failing some of her other classes. These girls have money and no inhibitions and Grace soon finds herself alienating her best friends. She gets caught up lying to her family and friends and drinking with her cool new friends. She even starts dating the hottest guy in school.

Grace is able to keep her parents in the dark about her downward spiral. They're caught up in their own grief. Her father spends his evenings in the basement alone and her mother has immersed herself in their church where they have been receiving counseling from the family pastor. Grace finds her parents' devotion to God too much since she blames him for taking Matt from them. She completely loses it when the church wants to honor Matt's memory, forcing her parents to realize she may be having a harder time dealing with her grief than they realized.

Through all of this turmoil, Grace manages to catch the attention of the biggest freak in school, Philomena. She shows up everywhere Grace is and somehow always knows what Grace is thinking and feeling. Philomena does not understand that Grace doesn't want her around. Grace soon realizes that Philomena is the only one she can count on and she might be the one who saves Grace from herself.

Grace is a very likable heroine even when making terrible choices. It's easy for the reader to put themselves in her place. What would you do if you lost someone that close to you? Most people would also be flattered that the coolest kids want to be your friend. Spencer is able to keep Grace sympathetic even when she's being cruel to those who care about her. While the death of a relative can be a dark topic, Grace is also dealing with issues that readers who have not experienced that can relate to such as drinking, peer pressure, dating, friendships and parents. These issues are difficult enough for a typical teen without a loss like Grace has suffered.

Grace's relationship with her parents has become even more strained because she has the whole spotlight on her now that she's the only child. She seems to have had a normal parent/teen relationship before Matt's death but now that she is questioning everything, she sees them through different eyes. They're no longer just her parents that set rules and pay for things and ask about grades. She sees them as flawed people that are having just as much trouble navigating these unknown waters that she is. They are not able to provide answers for her questions and she is not able to accept this vulnerability in them.

This book contains underage drinking and sexual content. It is appropriate ages thirteen and up.

© 2008 Amy Ridley

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.