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Up High in the Trees

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  714 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
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Brinkman's debut is an astonishing first-person narrative that reveals a family struggling to regain its footing after the sudden death of its matriarch. The tragedy blooms slowly through the eyes of a precocious narrator, nine-year-old Sebby Lane. An unusual and sensitive child, Sebby knows more of what is swirling around him t
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 10th 2007 by Grove Press (first published June 8th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,332)
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Ron Charles
Dec 30, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No one could blame you for turning away from Kiara Brinkman's haunting first novel. The muffled pain of Up High in the Trees will trigger your reflex for emotional protection but, if you can bear it, the treasures here are exquisite. I can't remember when I ever felt so torn between recoiling from a story and wishing I could somehow cross into its pages and comfort a character.

Brinkman's narrator, 8-year-old Sebby Lane, lives in Massachusetts with his father, a music professor at Wellesley, and
Sep 15, 2007 David rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and surprisingly engaging. Despite what one would expect from the eye-rollingly sensitive plot description, this does not read like a typical tearjerker or Lifetime movie special. Here a simple tragedy is given new depths – emotional and occasionally comic – by the creation of a unique narrative voice and a fully-developed setting in personal and historical time. Strangely, for me the two most tragic elements of the story – the undisclosed autism and mother's sudden and confu ...more
Jan 06, 2011 Travis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This is a book I picked up solely on the basis of the cover blurb (an eight-year-old boy deals with the death of his mother) rather than reading any reviews of it first. Having read it, I kind of wish I had read reviews, as I might have avoided it.[return][return]It's not that it was bad. It was well-written and I enjoyed the story for the most part, but. From the summary, it was not obvious that the narrator is on the autism spectrum. It's never mentioned outright in the story, either, but it's ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who liked Carry Me Down by MJ Hyland
There was a review (I believe in NYT) comparing this novel to The Sound and The Fury, regarding mental illness and its impact on the narrator. I don't think many of the passages here carry the weight of some of The Sound's stronger sections, but it's easier to walk away from Up High in the Trees with some idea of what happens.

The short sections offer too much blank space to really appreciate after a while. You turn the pages too quickly. There are some moments, however, that I found endearing. I
Mar 23, 2011 Stepfanie rated it it was ok
I picked up this book when I suddenly went out of town with my bf for Wisconsin's blizzard 2011. While he was out plowing roads, I was stuck in the hotel with nothing besides 10 channels on the tv and this book.

It is not horribly written... The characters aren't well rounded. You tend to make assumptions about Sebby. Maybe he's Autistic or something? It is never really explained. The dad seemed to be having a complete mental breakdown. I guess I just kept waiting for more or expecting something
Stephanie Marshall Ward
Eight-year-old Sebby Lane tells this story in a poetic stream of consciousness style. He shared an intense bond with his mother, who died, along with her unborn baby, after being hit by a car. He is often cared for by his teenage siblings, Cass and Leo. They are frustrated by his odd behaviors, like lying down, perfectly still, under a table in the library, but they are devoted to him.

After an incident at school, Sebby's father decides that the two of them will spend some time alone together. Bu
Rebecca Ann
Jun 11, 2015 Rebecca Ann rated it really liked it
Told through the eyes of a highly unusual eight-year-old boy coping with grief and the disintegration of his remaining family members, Up High in the Trees is a poetic first effort by Kiara Brinkman. Sebby has a highly sophisticated, personal, and unique voice unusual for his age group, and the story is told an undetermined amount of time after his mother is struck dead by a car in the night. Sebby, like any young boy bereaved of his mother, struggles with his loss, and his dad takes him to the ...more
Dec 03, 2008 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Christina by: Rebecca {Inside Cover}
Up High in the Trees is definitely outside my comfort zone, meaning I wouldn’t usually pick it up. But after reading a recent review for the novel, I put in a request for it at my public library and settled down to read it on Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised.

Up High in the Trees is a beautifully written novel told from the point of view of a precocious eight-year-old boy, whom I suspect is autistic, although we’re never told. Despite dealing with the death of a mother, it’s a refreshing take o
Tranna Foley
Jan 24, 2012 Tranna Foley rated it really liked it
Really great book...written from the perspective of autistic boy. You learn about his family (mother's death, father's problems, siblings) all through his thoughts. I would never pretend to know what goes on in the mind of an autistic kid, but the book did make me feel like I understood it better.

Review from Publisher's Weekly:
The Asperger's afflicted narrator of Brinkman's sincere, sober debut struggles to cope with his pregnant mother's recent death after she was hit by a car. Already keenly s
Aug 28, 2011 Phyllis rated it liked it
Recommended to Phyllis by: came across it
I would rate this a 3-4. And I'd like to play devil's advocate with all the folks who are determined that the main character, Sebby, is either autistic or has Asperger's. I've read quite a bit about autism and books by autistic authors. One of the main things that determines the difference between how their and our minds work is that they don't think in words, but rather in images. Ergo it would have been impossible for this book to exist (written in words) I tend to agree with the main review t ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Marlo rated it liked it
From Publishers Weekly:

The Asperger's afflicted narrator of Brinkman's sincere, sober debut struggles to cope with his pregnant mother's recent death after she was hit by a car. Already keenly sensitive to emotional and sensory stimuli, Sebby Lane finds his mother's loss almost unbearable; he acts out at school, biting a girl on the shoulder. Sebby's father, Stephen, is nearly unable to function, and, in an attempt to help both Sebby and himself, takes Sebby to the family summer home, hoping tha
Nov 29, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
I didn't know much about Up High in the Trees when I ordered it from Amazon, nor when I began reading it. I chose the book because I had read posts by Kiara Brinkman on The Nervous Breakdown a while back and remembered liking them. When I heard she had a book out I ordered it purely based on that. So I was delighted to find that I actually liked the book.

Up High in the Trees isn't a typical novel. It's told in vignettes from the viewpoint of 8-year-old Sebastian Lane, whose mother has just died.
Nov 19, 2012 Brit marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brit by: Saw it at the library on the "new" shelf
Overall, I enjoyed this book and it was a FAST read!
I finished it in a week - which is remarkable, having a newborn and all!

I believe this is the authors first novel, and at points in the story you can tell. The novel is set in 1991 and the author tries too hard to make relevant cultural references ~ when really the story doesn't hing on the timeframe. The story could have taken place in 2008 ot 1968 - it would not have mattered.

But she created a wonderful character in Sebby - you want to jump i
Christy Clements
Sep 18, 2013 Christy Clements rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I chose it because of reviews that the narrator was a little boy with autism, like my own son. For a debut novel, Brinkman did a brilliant job. Told in fast-paced vignettes and letters, this story allows us to see into the mind of little Sebby and how he is dealing with his mother's sudden death and the aftermath of how it affects his family...all from the eyes of an eight-year-old boy with autism. Several of the reviews on this book criticize the author because she d ...more
Sep 23, 2008 Anne rated it it was ok
I just couldn't shake the feeling that I'd read this book somewhere before...only it was set in England and it was called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. Only the kid in Mark Haddon's best-seller was a 15-year old autistic savant, and the one in this book is an 8-year old who has just lost his mother and has a father on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The book is written in the first person, from Sebby's (Sebastian) point of view. So, obviously everything is supposed to be child- ...more
Will N Van
I hate to give bad reviews.

I picked up this book because of a penchant for young protagonists, as well as the synopsis and cover art. In addition, some reviews maintained the book was told effectively from the viewpoint of a child with Asperger's syndrome. Seeing as I suffer from this, I was expecting a realistic and engaging portrayal that might parallel my own childhood in certain ways.

It is not clear that Sebby suffers from Asperger's, and this is never explicitly stated. If anything, it seem
Apr 08, 2012 Thom rated it liked it
This was, of course, elegantly written with very evocative imagery. That is its main appeal to me. It seems kind of beside the point to debate whether or not Sebby is on the Autism spectrum. I have a son with Asperger's, and I know a lot of kids and adults on the spectrum. They are each more different than they are alike, and no book is going to speak for ALL of them. Sebby may or may not be Autistic, but it doesn't matter because this is not a story of Autism, it is a story of a family in deep, ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and then, when I am reading a book, I am washed over with the talent of the author. That happened with this book. I am not a writer, and I can't fathom how a person can so perfectly inhabit the inner world of another person/character, especially when that other person/character is in some way different or unique from the normal, run-of-the-mill person.

So it is with this book. The author somehow perfectly understands the very unique inner world of Sebby, a boy we would probably call aut
Jan 16, 2008 Pam rated it liked it
This story is about the aftermath of a family's tragedy, the death of the mother, told through the voice of a highly functioning autistic child.

Very smooth and moving narrative. A bit too raw for me. I was always braced for the train wreck that might have happened - not that is was graphic or negative - but you surely got the sensation that all the family members were careening - and might not recover from the loss. You weren't sure they were going to come together in the end.

Not to mention that
Lori Johnston
This one was just ok for me. I liked how the writer wrote from the perspective of the 8 year old boy but for me it was lacking in more adult details. I liked the story line, but I wanted to know more,more about the mother, more about the father even more about Sebby from a parent's view. Perhaps it is because I am looking at things through a mother'e eyes, through a social worker's eyes, through a disability support person's eyes, but as the father spiraled and finally got some help, the mother ...more
May 05, 2010 Jane rated it liked it
This is a book that makes you wish you knew a whole lot more about the characters. The narrator is 8-year-old Sebastian Lane who is struggling to come to terms with his mother's death, but you know Sebby has other problems, possible autism or Asperger's syndrom, although it is never made clear. His father seems to be in the throes of a mental breakdown as well. And the question came to my mind at least, was the mother's death a suicide? Through it all the older brother and sister seem remarkably ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it
Amazingly unique voice reminiscent of The Sound and the Fury. Yet, it’s not written with much gravitas to be on par with monumental works like that novel and such novels as Flowers for Algernon, that deal with mental illness/disability and the narrator. But it is much clearer on the story than TSANTF. Also, though I like how it’s not stated directly that the narrator Sebby has autism, I was waiting for more explanations. It's more about grief than autism, but a very ambitious book and high achie ...more
Jan 13, 2012 Shelley rated it liked it
Reminds me of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, except not as sentimental. The narrator is around age 9 and has Asperger's - though this is never mentioned, we just assume so from the way the boy speaks. Maybe this makes me sound bad, but I'm kind of tired of books narrated by precocious autistic kids, or even precocious kids. Maybe it's just the kind of books I'm picking up, but I'm not seeing anything particularly fresh on the subject. I liked it better than Curious Incident becaus ...more
Abbey B
Jan 29, 2016 Abbey B rated it it was ok
The editor made big mistakes none of speaking had quotation you did not know who was speaking and when he was thinking or when things were actually happening
Aug 07, 2008 julieta rated it did not like it
I sometimes read things just out of curiosity,and this book was really a disappointment, the whole story and characters seem to be sustained only by the fact that something very sad happened to them. Very sad indeed, but that gives nothing to the story itself, I found, where nothing really ever happens. The only thing you keep is the fact that they have all lost someone important, their mother and for their father, a wife. I have read many books where the main character is a young boy or girl, b ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Barbara rated it liked it
Too much like other books. A ten year old boy struggles, along with is father, sister and brother, with his mother's death.
Jul 18, 2008 Keri rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008
The best thing about this book was it was short so I didn't waste too much time. This book got some great reviews from big sources but I didn't really care for the book. I did really enjoy the style of writing quite a bit. The story was easy to get into from the beginning but I didn't think it was very developed. You have this family who just suffered terrible loss, a little boy whose father is going crazy and when it was all over with it, I kept thinking surely my book was missing another 100 p ...more
Dec 21, 2007 Alicia rated it liked it
I'm sure this book is going to garner lots of comparisons to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, b/c it too is narrated by an autistic boy (actually, they never say he's autistic--some review I read said that--so he may have some other mental handicap). Anyway, his mother has just died, his father is having a breakdown, and his two older siblings are also having trouble coping. It can be hard to write a realistic narrative from the POV of a kid, especially a handicapped one, and I don' ...more
Braedon Blumke
Oct 09, 2014 Braedon Blumke rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. The first book I have read all the way through in a long time.
Nov 22, 2008 Carla rated it really liked it
This was a very good, quick read. Narrated from the point of view of 8-year-old Sebby, we see how a family deals with the aftermath of the mother passing away. We never meet her character (she's already passed, suddenly and unexpectedly), but Sebby's thoughts reveal a lot about his relationship with her. The author tells the story solely through Sebby's thoughts, and in my opinion, she very accurately captures the inner workings of a young, confused boy. The other characters (Sebby's father, his ...more
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Kiara Brirnkman grew up first in the Midwest and then some more in California. She graduated from Brown University and earned her M.F.A. from Goddard College. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney's and Pindeldyboz, among other magazines. She has been working with children her whole life, and currently lives in San Francisco."
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