Educating Drew's Reviews > Without Tess

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley
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's review
Dec 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, ah-may-zing, contemporary

I am SO glad that I stumbled upon this book via Netgalley because I absolutely know I would have skipped over it at the bookstore. The cover is just not oooh la la for me. And yes, although I know one should not judge a book by its cover, I'm superficial like that.

This book is A-May-Zing. I was immediately drawn into Lizzie's story as she sits in the office with her shrink going through her sister Tess's journal. Tess is dead and even though it's years later, Lizzie isn't dealing with it so well.

Lizzie and Tess had a unique relationship. Tess creates these fantastical scenarios where magic happens, mermaids exist, and Merlin whispers secrets to her. Lizzie adores her sister and is always willing to play along. Except there finally comes a time in childhood where Lizzie is done pretending and Tess is adamant that she's not.

So what makes this book A-May-Zing? Pixley's description of an emotionally sick little girl is gut wrenching and so realistic that I truly felt I KNEW Tess and Lizzie. At parts it was painful to read. Lizzie doesn't realize how disturbed her sister really was and the biggest obstacle in dealing with her death is accepting that bit of knowledge. There were moments when Tess was vicious and manipulative, always testing Lizzie's love and loyalty for her. Often, these tests would put Lizzie's life in danger. Yet young Lizzie loved her unabashedly. It's the older Lizzie that can't make sense of her adoration and hate.

Told in flashbacks, you'd think that it'd get a bit confusing. But it never does. The writing is that seamless.

I read this book in one sitting.

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