Minli's Reviews > Without Tess

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley
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Jul 17, 11

bookshelves: awesome-writing, young-adult, contemporary
Read in July, 2011

I must thank my Macmillan friend for sending me this book (unsolicited) and telling me to read it, because I never would have picked it up myself. And I am so glad I did. I can imagine Without Tess is a tough sell, because despite its gorgeous, lyrical writing, most people don't want to read about how toxic fantasy can be.

So yes, as a lover of fantasy and folklore, the subject of the book filled me with a lot of trepidation. Sisters Tess and Lizzie were each other's best friends. Imaginative twelve-year-old Tess believes in fairies and mermaids and magic, and when Lizzie is ready to step away from it, Tess decides she no longer wants to be part of a world where magic doesn't exist.

Five years later, Lizzie is failing out of school and still hasn't come to terms with Tess's death. Armed with a school psychiatrist and Tess's lovely lyrical Pegasus journal full of poems, Lizzie begins the very long healing process that helps crystallize her relationship with Tess and the pain and magic of their childhoods.

This going to sound ridiculous, but I couldn't say I liked this book until I read Marcella Pixley's author note saying that magic existed in a lot of different forms. I wouldn't be able to like it if this book was postured as "magic is dangerous, see what can happen when you believe in fairies?" but Pixley obviously isn't saying that. She wonderfully shows how one child went too far, stopped eating because she believed she was immortal, and took playing let's pretend to such extreme heights it became pathological.
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